Tuesday, October 16, 2018

One's Second Death

A month ago, I learned of the death, two months ago, of my first wife, a woman I loved deeply throughout the decade of the 1970s. Our separation and divorce back then were traumatic, very sad. I had not heard from her in decades, and I occasionally wondered how she was doing, wishing her well, even as I blamed her and her parents primarily for our marital failure.

The divorce had been a bit like death, a parting forever. The friends we had were puzzled, as we had seemed in love and committed, and they mostly drifted away or took sides with one of us and not the other.

It saddened me to learn of her death, due to cancer, at age 69. She should have had more years, better years. I wrote in tribute to her, for her memorial service that I had loved her deeply and I wish her eternal peace. To a degree, I was echoing the words of Helen Keller, “All that we have loved deeply becomes a part of us.” My first wife was the center of my life for a decade. Our divorce hurt. Our shared experiences have been put behind us, never to be relived in conversation together.

The idea of our second death is that after we die, some who knew us live on, but once they are all gone, we have died a second time. Her death is part of my second-death-to-come. I am part of her second death, now. Eventually, we are wholly gone.

I am reminded of Robert Frost's poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay,”

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower,
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So, Eden sank to grief.
Dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

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