Yesterday I went to see the Tom Ford movie, A Single Man. It’s based on the 1964 novel by Christopher Isherwood and stars Colin Firth. The action takes place on a single day in 1963 as George Falconer, an English professor whose lover’s death in a car accident a year before, has left him stricken with grief he cannot express openly. Over the course of this day we watch George meticulously plan his suicide.
Perhaps this was an odd choice of a movie for me to see – but I’m glad I went. At the risk of spoiling the movie for those who haven’t seen it, I took away some insights and some comfort about my fresh grief.
In particular, I understand better now how life compels us survivors as inexorably as the tide that catches George and Kenny during their midnight swim. Most newly-bereaved people experience the disjointed feeling when the rest of the world wags on as our world has changed profoundly and irrevocably. But tragically and magically, our path has now taken a different fork from that of our loved-one. Resist it as we may, we must follow the fork before us.
A couple weeks ago I signed up for an on-line mail list for widows and widowers, and it isn’t for me. The members range in distance from their spouse’s death from a week to over a decade. But they all seem to have the same story: Their spouse was their perfect soul-mate; they are paralyzed with grief; life no longer has meaning and purpose; life is over. They cannot imagine how life can go on without their spouse; they cannot even imagine that it CAN go on.
I am sad that Frank is gone; I’m shocked; it’s unfair; he was too young. My life will be very different than the life we planned together.
I need to forge this new path, but forge it I will. My life will, indeed, go on . . . because that’s what life does.
Note: Yes, I did see the end of the movie. But the beauty of art is that we may take from it what we need.
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