Monday, June 8, 2015

A Love Affair with my Dead Husband

My beloved husband Arthur has been dead for almost four months now. Yet, in the last couple of months, I have come to realize that our love affair is continuing. Obviously it’s taken a different form, but the relationship lives on in a very real sense.

Before today I have only talked about this with one other person because I thought it would probably sound odd to people who haven’t lost a lover to death. I know it would have seemed odd to me not long ago. The one person I did share it with lost her husband some years ago, and she was quite sympathetic, as I knew she would be.

Then yesterday I read an essay in the New York Times entitled I Am a Bigamist. The author, Jill Smolowe, is also a widow, and she writes about how her love affair with her dead husband has continued, even in the new relationship she has with her second husband, a man who lost his wife and has his own separate love affair. Ms. Smolowe says they discussed their continuing love affairs before they were married. Because in her heart she is still in love—and married—to her first, dead husband, to be married to a second man means she is a bigamist. How beautiful; such an expansive vision of love, and of life and death.

In “Better Angels,” a lyrical film about Abraham Lincoln’s youth, death plays a major role. Abraham’s mother died when he was fairly young. In the film, Abraham has a very special relationship with his mother, and her death was difficult for him (I assume this is based on fact). His father re-married, and there are some touching scenes where Abraham learns that loving this new mother doesn’t diminish his love for his biological mother.

The most moving scene for me was when the new mother went into a field and met the ‘ghost’ of Abraham’s mother, and the two women interacted in a loving way. What I saw communicated between the two was the understanding that the biological mother had her part in this family and the two women were going to co-exist. After I saw this movie, I thought, “If I ever have another intimate relationship, that person is going to have to learn to co-exist with Arthur’s spirit, which will always be here beside me.”

I am grateful for Ms. Smolowe for this article, helping me understand that this experience I’m having is something to celebrate, a sign of the great love that exists between Arthur and I. Arthur may have died, but our love lives on.