Today I happened upon an article about grief attributed to Christopher Walken. It struck a chord with me as he said essentially what I always tell people. You never stop missing the loved one who died; eventually, you get used to the big hole the death leaves in your heart, mind, and soul. Earlier this week, while visiting with my friend Wanda whom I have known since Jr. High, she brought up my first love Michael Poth. We were junior/senior high sweethearts. He was funny, charming, attractive, fun loving, and also very reckless. When I called him out on his daredevil antics and told him how stupid it was to ride a motorcycle on a dark country road with no light and with no helmet, Michael told me that he knew he would die young, so he was going to live it up. I couldn’t handle what I saw as self-destruction. I loved to have fun, too. I just didn’t want to see him die foolishly. We broke up.
Several years later, his premonition came true when he broke his neck in a diving accident on a river that left him paralyzed from mid-chest down. Right after, I heard about it from his brother, I went to see him at the hospital. He was happy to see me. I yelled at him for being so careless. He said “carefree.” I said, “careless.” Now, you get a glimpse of our complicated relationship. Anyway, we hugged and cried. Then, he confided in me that he went out of his body and saw himself drowning below. His legs didn’t work after his head hit a boulder under the surface of the river. He consciously decided to inhale water to end his life, but he shot back into his body in time to look up into the light streaming down and saw a young man diving into the water to save him. He held on. Michael was afraid to tell anyone about his out of body experience. He didn’t want people to think he was crazy. It just so happened that I had read articles written by and about Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. I reassured him he was fine.
I visited him at the hospital every day. He survived for several years afterward and spent almost all of that time in one of two hospitals. During that time, he learned to get around in a wheelchair, dress, and sort of take care of himself. all while he tried so hard to keep his spirits up. When the swelling eventually went down, his brain injuries caused seizures. He didn’t survive one of them. He was in a coma for eight months or so before his body finally shut down.
While I grieved privately about Michael after he died I did not talk to anyone about our relationship and its ups and downs. I kept my memories to myself. Anyway, my little trip down memory lane with my friend Wanda affected me deeply. I cried on my drive home. It has been many years since he crossed over the rainbow bridge. I haven’t had any visits or dreams for a long while. But just talking about Mike sent me right back to our time together. There is still a big hole in my heart with his name on it. So, you truly never forget. You get used to not being able to see or touch him or her. Good memories are important. But I can also attest to the fact that sad ones are too. Honestly, he will never be forgotten. He was my first love.
Shirley Enebrad is a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist with 25 years of experience. For her many years of work with pediatric cancer patients and those grieving the loss of a loved one, she received the Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service and the Angel of Hospice Award. She is the author of Six-Word Lessons on Coping with Grief and Six-Word Lessons for Surviving a Devastating Diagnosis.
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