Missing Her as March Approaches
Last year, on March 2nd, while my wife Barbara was at home in my care, she had her second stroke. As I had read the information given out by the hospital after her first one, I recognized the signs and called the emergency number, which dispatched an ambulance. They seemed to take forever to get to our home and much too long to leave once they were here (with refrains of “the golden hour” running through my head on a loop), but, eventually, they had her on the way and I was able to follow shortly thereafter.
She stayed in St. Francis Hospital until March 19th, which happened to be the Saturday of the weekend when the annual science fiction convention that she and I volunteered for was held, so the date stuck in my head, as it was one of a very few times I missed that convention since moving to Memphis in 1987.
After that 2nd stroke, things seemed to return to how they were before, with frequent visits from home health care staff (nurse, physical therapist, speech therapist, occupational therapist) and live-in help from our new good friend Linda. The hospital doctor only gave Barbara a 30 day prescription on her meds, which meant that, eventually, we had to either return to the hospital (another $400 ambulance ride each way) or make arrangements to get her to her regular doctor. We did the doctor visit the first Monday in May; by Sunday night of that same week, she had an infection with symptoms so bad that I called an ambulance (the next morning after the home health nurse showed up and agreed with me) to take her back the hospital.
I rehash all this history, which was reported in painful detail at the time on Facebook and via text message to her family and my own, because, as I approach March 2nd, it feels right to take notice of the date.
Just as last Christmas was the first Christmas since I lost her (she and I had dinner together on the previous Christmas and then she had her first stroke a few days later and she passed away in May), this is the first anniversary of March 2nd.
Forgive me if this is too personal or self-indulgent or blasphemous, but I seem to have my own liturgical calendar with certain Low Unholy Days in place of the usual High Holy Days seen on traditional ones.
Every year, these Unholy Days come back around and I am struck by them all over again. Of course, the depth of feeling fades a bit over time. How could it not? I have other worries now.
Is senior cat Tabitha just being especially picky about her food or do I need to take her back to the vet sooner rather than later for an exam? Will Merlin and Lillie ever accept Gertie so I can open all the doors and let them all have access to the entire house again (well, other than Tabitha’s rooms)?
What the heck was that chest pain thing that the hospital said was not a heart attack — and that has returned and hung around for several days? Cardiologist visit scheduled, check.
Revised Will and other legal docs – pending. Eye exam, hearing exam, foot exam, teeth cleaning and exam – all pending. Bookkeeping – pending.
Culling my own books and papers and other stuff now that I have done so with hers — not even started yet.
Yes, I have plenty to occupy my mind, even without the political and economic and other messes outside my door. So, the pain of the Low Unholy Days has slacked off somewhat and some of the lesser Unholy Days never made enough of an impression to make it onto the semi-permanent calendar.
All of which brings me to my question:
Do I have to convert in order to let go of this calendar and become a new and better me?
History tells us that one way the Spanish Inquisition “caught” people whom they accused of not actually converting from Judaism to Christianity was by finding them still celebrating the Jewish festivals. As they were not able to give up their old calendar, this was taken as evidence that they had not given up their old faith.
They did not break their old pattern or step outside their old box. One thing that people are good about is seeing patterns once we start looking for them. We are so good at it, in fact, that we often see them where they don’t even exist.
Some types of Christians are much more heavily invested in a liturgical calendar than others. It seems that the more saints there are recognized by your church or denomination, the more you are likely to follow a detailed calendar. My family was Baptist, so about the only religious holidays we followed were Easter and Christmas, with a passing nod to Lent. For us, the 12 Days of Christmas was a song sung because of tradition, not a thing people we knew actually observed. To this day, even though I left the Baptist church decades ago, I have very mixed feelings on this whole liturgical calendar thing.
I would imagine that someone who converts from a faith with many saints that each have holy days dedicated to them (Roman Catholic, Greek or Russian Orthodox, some forms of Hinduism or other religions) to one without that would miss it, but they may find it freeing, as well. In any case, the lack of so many events already laid out for your annual observance would certainly bring home the fact that you have entered a new realm, a new spiritual place where your relationship with the Sacred has changed.
This is why I ask again: Do I have to convert in order to let go of this calendar and become a new and better me?
Convert from what to what? You may well ask.
I suppose that is really the question. When I have the answer to that, I will let you know.
The convention mentioned above is MidSouthCon. You can read more about it on their website at http://midsouthcon.org.
I think it’s true for all of us that we set our own “holy” and “unholy” days as we go through loss and joy and everything in between. What becomes an important date or season doesn’t mean the same to others, but we hold it in our hearts. What a tender post, Tim. Best wishes as your March unfolds.
Thank you, Jackie.