You never know how you’re going to react in the face of the loss of a loved one. When they were closing my father’s coffin to take it from the funeral home to the church, I almost passed out. The finality of that scene just overwhelmed me.
As Laura’s death became more imminent, when I knew that she was no longer going to get out of bed, I started arranging things to my liking, not hers. I took out my mother’s set of the Oxford English Dictionary and put it on our bookshelves in the living room. I could understand why Laura didn’t want me to display all my pulp fiction where the world could see my low-brow tastes, but I never understood why she insisted that I get the OED out of the house when I brought it back after my mother died. Laura had the compact two-volume edition, which you had to read with a magnifying glass. That’s all she wanted in the house.
She also wanted me to wear my hair long. Since I’m bald on the top, I think long hair looks ridiculous, especially when it’s curly and unruly like mine. She was the one who had to look at me every day so I let my hair grow as long as I could stand it. She still would complain whenever I had it trimmed, and I mean trimmed, not a proper cut. Within a week of her funeral, I had my hair cut very short. Laura would have said I look like a facha. Then, of course, I retired at the end of the year she died. She adamantly did not want me to retire. But now that I’m retired I have the time to “read and scribble” about grief.
One of my friends lost his wife to cancer a few months before Laura died. He told me that he started leaving the toilet seat up, and then went out and bought a motorcycle. In all the books and articles that I have read concerning grief, not one mentions rebellion. If, however, C.S. Lewis is right that grieving gives us the same bodily reactions as fear, it is not too much of a stretch to point out that Aristotle uses the Greek word for civil war, taraché, for one of the elements of fear—disturbance, turmoil.
One might say that I’d already done my rebelling against my father long before he died, while I’d been grieving for Laura ever since her first round of radiation and chemo failed more than a year before.