On a recent long-haul flight, I was seated next to an elderly lady who lives in Australia but regularly commutes to visit old friends in South Africa. We had been chatting for a while when I gathered that she was a widow. I asked her how long it had been since her husband had passed away. She told me that she was 84 and had lost her husband 13 years ago. We lapsed into silence as I had seen her lower lip begin to quiver as she spoke of him. I didn't want to her to be publicly embarassed but I also wanted her to know that I knew how timeless grief was. Not that I was comparing the loss of Kirstin to a spouse, but just the very nature of grief's processes. I turned to her and said: '13 years sounds like a while, but sometimes it feels like yesterday, hey?' She looked at me and I believe she knew that though I could not fully fathom the depth of the pain and loss she must have gone through over the last dozen years, perhaps at least I could understand the urgency of the message her own very personal experience conveyed. She touched my arm. 'He was a wonderful man, you know. I loved him very much. We had more than 50 wonderful years together. You must tell your wife every day that you love her. You must tell her. Every day. Never waste a moment with her or think that you will always be able to.' I promised her I would and she nodded in confirmation, 'Every day.'
It struck me that perhaps it was not the grief that was timeless but love and even though death had seperated them, the love that they shared continued to be life-giving as its witness challenged me to more deeply appreciate Carmen and endeavour to love her that much more. To honour the gift that is whatever time we have left together on this earth.