Yesterday our divorce went to the Orange County court. A judge was sitting in a courtroom and going through all the cases that would have been handled in person by lawyers– were it not this unusual pandemic year. I imagined the judge in a dimly lit, drafty room, sitting and reading the facts on each page– faceless couples requesting the judge to declare their marriage was over.
The night before, I had a hard time getting to sleep. Memories of the night of our rehearsal dinner, our ‘Wedding Eve,’ on Friday August 4th, 1978 kept floating up. I could see us sitting around the table, candlelight and the feeling of being twenty-three and full of hopes and dreams for the marriage journey ahead. Some of those dreams were realized in our forty years; some were not.
Yesterday I felt like moping, half-concentrating on the work I had to do, half-focused on the judge in that courtroom. It seemed like more should be happening– that it should be more a recognized life event. When someone dies, it’s hopefully with loved ones around witnessing the end of a valued life. But when the final breath of a marriage is taken, no one is there. I chose to be by myself; there are family and friends who would’ve been with me if I’d asked.
I took the afternoon off to recognize what was happening in my life. Like always, I spent time writing out my feelings. I started with a sheet of paper and on one side I wrote “Gains” and the other “Losses.” Years ago I read that with any loss, there are both gains and losses–even if at first it may seem that there’s only loss. While you mourn the loss of someone who was precious, you may gain time and energy with reduced caregiving or the effort required to maintain that relationship.
I filled each side of the page, thinking of the small and large gains and losses. I considered my list as I watched the sun go down over a lake at a park I’d never visited. It felt right to be in a new place while I let go of the familiar and anticipated my next chapter.
Later, I took the page and cut the losses into pieces. I burned them– watching the fire overtake the things I’d written, and praying as the smoke was rising that I would let go of lingering anger, sadness, and regret.
Ashes to Ashes and Dust to Dust.
I watched the fire reduce the paper down to ashes, and then the fire was gone. I had unwittingly made it into my marriage burial service. While I know that one act does not take all that has come before away, just as burying a family member doesn’t stop the memories, doesn’t finish the grief–it is an act that becomes a milestone for moving forward.
Yesterday was commemorated, in my own private service, as the day when our marriage was over. Today, when my mind went back to the courtroom, I remembered that I’d moved forward through that ceremony; I needed to let go.
Some of you will identify with the ending of a marriage. But for those of you who can’t identify with that, I hope there will be some parallels with other areas that need closure in your life. May you find a way to count your gains, your losses, and move forward to what is ahead.
Blessings to you all.