Without going into the grimy and incriminating details, I've experienced something very much like the death of a dear friend. I picked up A Grief Observed accidentally almost, because another book I have references it in several places. I only happened to have it with me when I was struck with grief over the loss of my friend.
I was shocked at how closely it described my own experience. The emotion, the physical pain, the anxiety, the anger, the fear... I felt it intensely. More than anything, I had to come to terms with how I would respond to this loss. What do you do when you lose someone you love? How do you respond? Do you "get over it," rationalize your emotions and move on with your life? Can you ever return to the happiness that you once had, whether with your friend or before the two of you ever met? How can you return to that kind of happiness after knowing how much a truly special person impacts your life? It's naive to think that anyone can do that.
Did you ever know, dear, how much you took away with you when you left? You have stripped me even of my past, even of the things we never shared. I was wrong to say the stump was recovering from the amputation. I was deceived because it has so many ways to hurt me that I discover them only one by one.
I wrote something before all of this that became more real to me after it actually happened. "Whether you are near to me for the rest of my life or this is the last time I say goodbye, I thank God for you." Before my period of grieving, I though I meant these words; but I only meant them half-heartedly. I knew that I could thank God for how my friend impacted me while were together, but part of me would eternally resent that we were ever separated. But no. Now I know fully--I can and will thank God for the continued influence and impact of my friend's life.
I wrote the other night that bereavement is not the truncation of married love, but one of its phases... What we want is to live our marriage well and faithfully through that phase, too. If it hurts (and it certainly will) we accept the pains as a necessary part of this phase....We were one flesh. Now that it has been cut in two, we don't want to pretend that it is whole and complete. We will still be married, still in love. therefore we shall still ache. But we are not at all--if we understand ourselves--seeking the aches for their own sake. The less of them the better, so long as the marriage is preserved. And the more joy there can be in the marriage between dead and living, the better.
But I don't just want to remember my image of my friend. No, there was so much more that I can't capture in simple and happy memories or in a collection of photographs.
Images, whether on paper or in the mind, are not important for themselves. Merely links. Take a parallel from an infinitely higher sphere. Tomorrow morning a priest will give me a little round, thin, cold, tasteless wafer. Is it a disadvantage--is it not in some ways an advantage--that it can't pretend the least resemblance to that with which it unites me?
I need Christ, not something that resembles Him. I want H., not something that is like her. A really good photograph might become in the end a snare, a horror, and an obstacle.
And finally, I learned so much about God in this brief and miraculous time of grief.
When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of "no answer." It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, "Peace, child; you don't understand."
Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask--half our great theological and metaphysical problems--are like that....
"They say these things are sent to try us..." But of course one must take "sent to try us" the right way. God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn't... Sometimes, Lord, one is tempted to say that if you wanted us to behave like the lilies of the field you might have given us an organization more like theirs. But that, I suppose, is just your grand experiment. Or no; not an experiment, for you have no need to find things out. Rather, your grand enterprise. To make an organism which is also a spirit; to make that terrible oxymoron, a "spiritual animal." To take a poor primate, a beast with nerve-endings all over it, a creature with a stomach that wants to be filled, a breeding animal that wants its mate, and say, "Now get on with it. Become a god."