Friday, May 12, 2006

He Would Need Them When He Came Back


Joan Didion's book, The Year of Magical Thinking, stays with me. It was written during the first year after her husband died.
. . . .
For Joan, an example of the "magical thinking" was when she was cleaning out John's closet. She was able to do an extremely difficult task until she came to his shoes. She couldn't get rid of John's shoes because "he would need them when he came back."
. . . .
In a book that was filled with poignant incidents, this was perhaps the most moving. I'm a bit of a novice at grief myself, despite having lost both of my parents. There was sadness and confusion at those time, but it strikes me as odd that at 61 years old, I've only had one real experience with grief.
. . . .
That would be why the piece about the shoes resonated with me. When I was cleaning out Florence's closet a few weeks after she died, I would have waves of a terribly guilty feeling -- I was afraid that she was going to come into the house and find me going through her things. I thought she would feel so betrayed.
. . . .
I've learned through being with others in their grief that the magical thinking can take different forms. One woman was confusingly euphoric in the early part of her widowhood; after reading Joan's book, I've thought that perhaps this euphoria was this widow's form of magical thinking -- I wonder if she was magically thinking that now that the time of suffering and indignity and terror was past, perhaps NOW he would be able to return, whole. That would be cause for euphoria.
. . . .
We save some of the possessions of our lost ones as a way of keeping them with us. I use Florence's mixing bowls almost every day. That, I think, she would not find a betrayal, but rather a pleasure.

2 comments:

Ms. Jan said...

I must put this book on my library request list and soon! My mother-in-law still mourns her first husband 22 years dead (and she 20+ years remarried!). My Dad told us after Mom was gone six months that he was still waiting for her to come back. I love your book reviews Nancy.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, Nancy, the only thing that I wanted from my mother-in-law was a really cool lime green Bauer mixing bowl. When Barbara died last fall, John brought it home to me. I love it and use it often. I think she would have wanted me to.
Kathy B