Crushing Sweetness

The last three weeks have been full of harvesting, crushing and pressing. The sweetness of grapes has drenched and directed our days. This last winter and spring we experienced more rain and snow than we have in so many previous years , a gift from the heavens to your vineyard as it matures and our family adds knowledge to the lifetime of experience you shared with them.

I finally felt like I would be able to be present this harvest. I’ve been in physical therapy for months following a major surgery and have worked relentlessly to be well. I’ve worked hard at understanding the difference between grief and trauma, and sought the support and education I needed to survive. I’ve learned this new language that many grievers speak in which souls whisper through veils and there is no other tense than the present. It’s written in clouds and seasons, in memories and breath, in coincidence and connection. We wrote it with permanency into each other's hearts.

Measuring sweetness as we waited and tried to guess and plan the work ahead was how we measured our days. Sounds so romantic and lovely, doesn’t it, except…now

Every time we measured the grape sugar, I would ask what we were hoping for. It’s just one number, it’s not a difficult one to remember. But my mind would not cooperate. I couldn’t quite hold on to what we were hoping for. Without you here, it’s hard to remember what I am hoping for. Thankfully our children know and patiently remind me, your voice pouring from them.

Each variety was ready at a different time, so we had three separate harvests. My heart longed to share the beauty of the full clusters, you would treasure this first harvest in a way only we could share. Our son is excited about making white wine. I listen as best I can to his ponderings and plans, watch him work and feel that feeling I now share with every widow who wishes their children’s father was here for this. I smile through tears. Try to imagine the future. Wish with every fiber of my being you were here in this.

The second was a three day affair in which the reality of this life was made as clear as ever. We worked long in the heat. It felt like another stitch tied to the past and the future unlike so many that have been cut short. Secondary losses are another aspect of widowhood I was completely unaware of. I felt the enormity of them looming immediately, but didn’t know there was a term or explanation. If only they could be wished away or ignored, silenced with positivity or gratitude, but they demand to be acknowledged and grieved. I’ve learned what you already knew: some tools were never meant for some jobs, because they won’t work, and they cause even greater damage. Every disconnect, whether it’s relationship, location, schedule, vacation, work,etc. the change is an incredibly difficult loss far beyond what would be bearable if you were here.

The void you left, your directions, your physical energy and strength, the way you’d keep us going, humming and joking, is as immense as the open sky above us. Inescapable and vast, impossible to take in in one breath or a thousand. Even though I sense the embrace of your soul around all of us as we work, you are missed beyond description. Even with gracious help from family, it took us so many more hours to accomplish the work without you.

This is the reality. Holding you near, still connected, still loving and present and feeling the physical void. It will always be both. Bittersweet or melancholy are words that have yet to feel accurate-

Brutiful is closest.

Brutal and beautiful is more honest.

A terrorizing brutal attack near Gaza with hostages and casualties happened in the middle of our season of harvest. I was traumatized by the moving images of the hostages understanding the visuals of the horrors of what they had suffered. No words are needed when blood tells the story. I now have terms for how trauma manifests in my body, the chaos in my mind, an inability to speak and the freeze response I have experienced for decades. Seeing these victims activated uncontrollable responses. Before I could find clarity, a second attack, a bombing of innocent citizens in response to the first was instigated. For almost two weeks now every day I wake and hope there will be a ceasefire.

I have clear terms and descriptions now for narcissistic psychopathic behavior. I understand gaslighting and manipulation. I’m no longer ignorant of abuse of power and justified Machiavellian behavior. I watch the news and hear the more powerful ask the victims to come up with a solution, expect the oppressed to behave well, the starving and innocent to give up their oppressors. I see the oppressors hiding behind a shield of victimhood that they have stolen. I see the victims mocked and manipulated. I see the inhumanity. I cannot unlearn or deny the knowledge I’ve acquired through victim advocacy.

And I see city after city this weekend, protest after protest demanding a ceasefire and an honest look at who is being oppressed and who is terrorizing. No one is denying the horrific attacks, and they are speaking the truth of the terror of the response. This is truth.

This has been our harvest season. I am holding it all. Tremendous pain for the inhumanity of innocents suffering and hope in those who are seeking peace and valuing every human.

The reality of the ways you always calmed my being in ways I did not comprehend is now so undeniable, so missed and longed for. Laying down beside you at the end of each day was like climbing into a cocoon of safety where existential fear dissipated into nothing more than a moonlit night. It didn’t matter how nonsensical or cruel the outside world was, in your arms, all was well with us, with our family, all was well with my soul and yours and somehow with the world.

You. My beloved. Your merciful, kind and loving soul made it so. Your example of kindness and honesty, of faithfulness and patience, your lived example of loving kindness made me able to trust in goodness.

And now, a widow's question: how can I make it “well” for our children and theirs? It seems impossible now. How could all be well? In such an inhumane world.

I know my beloved is holding all my heartbreak and heart hope. I know that in the harvest and the crushing and the pressing you, my beloved, are here reminding us to hope.

“There is a time to keep silent and a time to speak” Ecclesiastes

“Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.” Eli Wiesel