In the hours and days immediately following Karen’s death, I was convinced that I could not go on alone. She had been far more than my better half—she had been about 80% of me, so there just wasn’t enough of me left to soldier on. I was (and am) devastated and had no idea what I should do except to join her as soon as possible. There was just no way I could live as a single after living as a couple for so many, many years, and not an ordinary couple either, but an adventuresome, lively, loving, and somewhat exotic couple. Two hippies that had changed with the times without ever changing our basic principles and beliefs and wanting to change the world for the better by helping others. If a man loses a leg, he just hops on, uses crutches, gets a prosthetic leg and continues on with his life. But if it’s the man who is missing and only the leg is left behind . . . ? That’s exactly how I felt. Karen touched, kissed, and complimented me every single day. She made me feel like I could do anything, and she frequently reminded me of all the good I had done to inspire me to continue, but she was gone. Without her to convince me of my worth, how was I to believe I had any value left?
Happily, I didn’t die in those early times but hung around long enough for my sons and others to let me know I was still wanted and needed. Some were very kind in their comments on Facebook and in emails such that even I reluctantly felt that writing the blog and continuing the preschool she loved so much was still vitally important—and something I could do, alone. The snail mail is so slow that without electronic technology, I’m sure I wouldn’t have made it. Being able to talk to my sons in the U.S. across thousands of miles and many time zones was a medicine of inestimable worth. Having the ability to see them in real time was a pearl of great price that wasn’t available even twenty years ago. Now, I have a face-to-face therapy session once a week with a wonderful woman in her late forties or early fifties who is a licensed psychotherapist with over twenty years experience. She’s a Greek married to a Cuban in Florida and she is just wonderful. Since I was a licensed psychotherapist in California in the seventies, I am better able to judge her abilities and skills, and they are phenomenal. My daughter-in-law recommended the BetterHelp.com website, and I have to say it has made a huge difference. They have hundreds, maybe thousands of therapists, and you can choose from all of them. If you get a bad one or one that just doesn’t do anything for you, you can change therapists very easily. I got one at first who wasn’t very good or maybe just didn’t care about an old man in Africa. At any rate, when I went to cancel, they offered to replace her and did, quickly, painlessly, and I love the one I have now even if I can’t pronounce her first name (it’s all Greek to me). You can choose to do all your therapy by email, or voice alone, or video (my choice)—it’s up to you. The cost is $45 a week for as many visits as you can schedule for the first three months and then it drops to $25 a week thereafter. This is a good deal since single visits in the States can run up to $250 an hour. If it seems like I am trying to sell these folks, I am. Everyone can use a someone to whom you can say anything and talk about problems that no one else even knows exist. If passing this information along helps even one person—well, you know the starfish story?
The point I’m trying to make (even though I’ve been bouncing all over the place) is that I have gone from not believing it was possible for me to continue without my beloved (our wedding rings had “I am my beloved’s and she is mine” inscribed in Hebrew on them) to now believing that I must continue with the blog, running the preschool, and keeping other projects alive as well because Karen is no longer here. Her presence kept me going while I had her, and her absence is keeping me going now that she’s gone. My therapist said there is a Greek belief that a husband or wife must continue to live in order to honor the relationship that existed—the longer you live, the deeper the relationship was. That’s where I am, now. The pain hasn’t gone—it never will be gone, and I carry it with me every second of every day, but it is no longer crippling me or rendering me ineffectual at doing what God has called me to do.
Yes, I would rather have her here with me, but not if she had to continue to live in pain (she would have, you know) and to not know if she would be the one who had to carry on alone. God made the right choice (what a surprise) even if it was a sledgehammer blow when it came. I am resolved to keep her memory and the things she loved alive for as long as I can. I will need help from many people in order to do this, but if you loved her a tenth as much as I did, then you will want to help in any way you can. It takes a village to raise a child, but it’s going to take a whole lot more than one village to keep me, the school, and all the other projects she carried in her heart alive and vital. I was right in that I couldn’t do it alone, but I was wrong in thinking that I was alone. Thank you for being there for me. Don’t go away—I still need you.