HE WAS MY NORTH, MY SOUTH, MY EAST AND WEST
The words of W. H. Auden’s Funeral Blues “he was my North, my South, my East and West” both devastate and elevate me merging into one single emotion. Peter was my world, my globe, my compass, and my GPS all in one. Since he died, I have learned to find my way hour-by-hour, minute-by minute, and painful inch-by-inch, traversing a long and arduous path of grief towards my acceptably new and unalterably different life. The devastation is clear but the elevation is not. The part of Auden’s words that raise my spirit, is finding a part of Peter in my heart that helps me to forge ahead. Those of us in the throes of grief know that in some fiber of our being, the moral compass of our lost love dwells in the depths of us, urging us forward into the light.
When Peter died three-and-a-half years ago, I couldn’t look at a picture nor could I conjure up memories of our life together without falling to the floor in a crumpled heap. But as time has passed, memories are what propels me forward. After Peter’s sudden death, I wanted to purge all memories from my consciousness. Passing a picture would devastate me. Thinking of our happy times together would capsize my being and knock me down for the count. Even smelling a cheeseburger and fries, Peter’s total favorite meal, would make me weepy, and a bit hungry too!
But gradually the memories became a salve to my wounds. Happy memories of our travels helped to heal my soul. Instead of numbing the pain, I embraced the sadness and began to bring on the pleasure we had in our relationship. The old memories became an anchor, helping me to find a core of strength in which to pass through the valley of grief.
Occasionally I worry that the memories will fade from my consciousness like a person going through dementia. But I discovered that by looking at a photograph, I can jog my memories to the forefront and experience joy at the very conception of that recollection.
Music devastated me after my loss. Hearing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” would turn me into a wet and disheveled bundle. Now I will listen to the beauteous song with wet eyes but know that Peter is with me in my mind and helping to heal my grief-stricken heart.
A sad movie evokes the same response but I have learned to cry, to wail, and to feel better after my grief burst, cherishing the memory of the times we had together. Knowing that we lived every moment to the fullest, is a balm in itself. Knowing that we cherished our love and nurtured it to the max, makes me remember the times we had with relish, not with regret.
The clocks have stopped, my world is immovably altered, and the love I thought would last forever is gone physically, but not from my heart. By accessing the memories of our love, I have internalized my lost love and carried on in a way that would make him smile. The thought of Peter smiling is enough for me to carry on and forge through the rest of my life with a glimmer of hope and a memorable piece of him tucked neatly in the nucleus of my soul.
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
-W. H. Auden
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