Sometimes, I play this morbid game. In my mind, I ask myself what if Peter did not die? What if he was still alive? How would that look? I block out all the ‘this is stupid because he is dead‘ and the ‘don’t make it harder on yourself’ voices, and I put myself in the moment of the question, in the now. Maybe not the mindfulness therapists teach, but my own, macabre game. And here’s what I think it would look like.
If Peter was still alive, I would be working at a job I didn’t hate. I would be bored, frustrated I didn’t have more time to write, looking forward to Thursdays at noon when I could relax with a three-day weekend, but I wouldn’t hate it. I would be content. And I would be repeating to myself, and others, how lucky I was to have the job which didn’t require too much out of me, with a wonderful boss, and that Peter and I had the means for me to work part-time. I know I would because this is what I did, every day, when Peter was alive and working, hard, for our future. And if he was still alive, I would continue my gratitude, every day.
If Peter was alive, my special feeling for the Holidays, starting with Thanksgiving, would soar and take on its own obnoxious life. I would play Christmas songs in the car, have my gifts already bought and ready to wrap, talk endlessly about where and when to get our tree and watch every single Christmas movie on every single TV station. There would be an excitement in me bubbling up from that place only the magic of the holidays can hold. And Peter would indulge me, pacify me, and I would see a light in his eyes, the one he held with a tinge of relief for having enough Christmas for the both of us. If Peter was alive, Christmas would be alive and flourishing in me.
If Peter was alive, my kids would not be suffering. They would not have their bouts of paralyzing grief or despairing longing for their father. They would talk to their father every week at some point, and he would dole out his opinion or wisdom in his understated, calm way. He would help them grow as a man and a woman, as a person, in their young, informative twenties. And when we all got together, we would be the tight-knit family of four so many people strive to have in life, and few are lucky to achieve. If he was still alive, my kids’ pain would not be so raw.
If Peter was alive, I would be back in my life of security and fulfillment. I would eagerly anticipate intimate moments, and basking in every drop of his love for me. I would laugh more, cry less, waaaay less. I would talk more, and not be silenced by the aloneness of my day. I would experience the good and the bad in life with him. I would be balanced by his Yin, and would not be dizzied by the disparity of my world. If Peter was alive, I would not know my hardest grief. I would only know the grief of a father, a grandmother, an aunt, a friend, but not the grief which stopped my life because Peter was my life. He was in every part of it. If Peter was alive, I continue on with what I knew as me and not have to stop to face a person I don’t know anymore.
If Peter was still alive, I would continue to be happy. I wouldn’t know the pain his absence caused and I could go on. Sure, I make take him, us, for granted, but I would also recognize he was my perfect match. And even with the bouts of nagging, arguments and the times of turning away sprinkled in every marriage, the warmth of knowing he stayed with me, by my side, as my touchstone, would drift over me at unexpected times. And in those moments, I would feel my purest form of happiness.
There is gratitude I get from the what-if game, the playing out of these scenarios in my head. It comes from understanding, truly understanding, all that I received from Peter. It comes from the blessing, the true blessing, from the awareness I was chosen as his till-death-do-up-part person. And it comes from the light Peter left burning inside of me, one I will keep with me, and using it to warm people along the way.
There is a peace with the what-if game. Perhaps it helps me deal with the grief of knowing it’s all contrary to what I’m living. Perhaps it gets me closer to a life which Peter is no longer a part of. Perhaps peace comes from knowing what I had. Or perhaps it settles me, grounds me, pushes me to continue you on. Looking back is one way to move ahead. And there is a wave of peace with embracing the inevitable.
There is a lesson of the now I received from the what-if game. I always signed off on Facebook posts with “peace in your now” and since Peter died, I understand the now better than ever before. Maybe it’s a lesson I can share with others. Maybe I can show, or tell, or be an example of how short life is and the only thing guaranteed is the now.
So, be content in the most mundane, draw in your family while you’re still whole, hold onto the magic feeling of Christmas because one day you may not care about the secrets it holds, and look for the happiness in the security of your life, even after a fight. And what if you did it in the only time guaranteed? What if you did it now?