I never knew emptiness could weigh so much, she said. I can barely hold it. So I sat beside her and reached for her hand and we held it together. ~Brian Andreas
Yesterday was my wedding anniversary. When we were planning our wedding we thought it was perfect that our dating anniversary fell on a Saturday, so the sixteenth of December now symbolizes the day our relationship began, and the day it became permanent. “Happy six and ten,” we said yesterday morning. Six years married, ten years together. We didn’t have anything in particular planned for the day. I felt like going out to dinner would be a waste (“Why should we pay for food when I can throw up for free at home,” I romantically joked to Mike).
I am so thankful for my families: the one I was born into, and the one I choose to populate with friends. Six years ago, members of both came together to bear witness to the creation of a new family, the one Mike and I started with our wedding vows. That night, as we spun around the room, the collective happiness of my families filled my heart.
We need people to not only bear witness to the good times, but also to the tragic, too. The hardest times are made easier by the ones who open their eyes, ears, and hearts to those who are suffering. It may not seem like it at the time, but when those in the throes of agony one day have the strength to look back they will see that their hardest moments were made a bit easier because others were there to help. The invisible heaviness of grief would crush each of us without the hands of so many to lessen its weight on our shoulders.
One thing I’ve learned in the last few years is that eventually, we all encounter our own losses. We think it will happen to someone else, but none of us are immune. Sometimes the emptiness is made up of expected loss: grandparents and parents, our elders. But, the majority of us will all be touched by unforeseen loss: cancer, car accidents, illness, violence. People taken from their lives and ours before any of us were ready.
We all carry our own burdens but it’s best to not compare them because there is no point; no one wins. But when we can occasionally shift our own burdens to the side to help someone else with theirs we might find that our own burdens, too, become lighter. Sometimes we can help in tangible ways with donations and cards and meals, and other times all we can do is watch and be present and never, ever forget.
The saying is that misery loves company, but I think that really, people love company. We want to share the good times, and we want to know we aren’t alone in the bad. When I married Mike six years ago I was only thinking about our future good times, but it turns out I also got a partner to walk with through the bad. On our anniversary we held our hands together, and held them out to those going through unthinkable tragedy. We are not alone, and neither are they.