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  • Writer's pictureJoshua Bentley

Grief Gab #11 - Acts of Service and the Realm of Memory

Before Joni and I were married, we went through The 5 Love Languages together. One of her love languages was acts of service. That was a hard one for me because I wasn't fluid in that language. But after 25 years together, I learned to speak it pretty well. My motivation for many things was because I wanted to bless Joni or because Joni would have liked it. I was thrilled to finish a project or task and show her so she knew how much I loved her and to get the words of affirmation (one of my love languages). But she's not here now what?

The last couple times I've worked in the yard were...unsatisfying. The front yard needed to get done so it didn't look like hillbillies lived here. But I felt Joni's loss while doing it because I knew I wouldn't see that fantastic smile of hers, get a big hug, and get a heartfelt "thank you". It looked good, but it felt hollow.

Just today I went into our backyard to rake up the leaves that carpet our overgrown lawn so I could tame the lawn in preparation for winter. I built a fire in our fire pit (which took forever thanks to wood I didn't realize was wet) and went about the business of cleaning up the leaves. When I finally decided to call it good for the day (because of my frustration with the fire and the fact that the leaves were frozen meaning I couldn't burn them), I noticed that I was feeling annoyed, irritable, and angry. I noticed a craving to medicate. There was some anxiety sprinkled in there too.

"Just a take a Xanax," I told myself. "No," I answered back. "Pain demands to be felt and I want to understand what's at the bottom of this."

So I spent some time thinking about it and realized that I was sad and grieving. I was/am really missing Joni. Because I knew that I wouldn't hear that "Nice job!" and won't hear it ever again. It's the reason why I haven't taken better care of our backyard and why I kinda don't care: it doesn't tell Joni that I love her anymore and I won't see the look of appreciation and love along with the words of affirmation that I always got when helping to make the house look nice.

I miss her dreadfully today. I miss knowing that she'd look outside to see me working or open a window to whistle at me or say "looking great". I don't have a new motivation yet for getting the work done besides making the yard playable if we get a good snow this year. Even if that was my motivation for this same kind of task when Joni was alive, I still knew that my being a caring and loving father was attractive to her and was another way in which I showed her that I loved her. One of the greatest things a man can do for his wife is to love their children.

But I'm finding it hard to feel like it's motivation enough. I'm sure I'll continue because I want to see progress and feel like I'm doing something, but it just isn't the same. Rather than taking joy in the work, I'm annoyed because Joni isn't here to see it or appreciate it. (Yes, I know she sees it from Heaven, but that's not much consolation right now.)

On top of this is the fact that my family is going over to my in-laws' house tonight to pick up a couple of items. They are downsizing and moving out of the home they've lived in since they first moved to Bellevue approximately 40 years ago. It's probably the last time we'll get to see the house before they're all moved out, and despite the desire to see it, take pictures, and soak in the memories, I find myself not wanting to go.

And I realized today that it's because of the pain and the emotions that I'll probably feel. During the time Joni and I were dating then engaged, I was over at my in-laws' a LOT. My home life had become unpleasant and their home was a place of safety, love, and sanctuary. Plus it's where Joni was.

All of my kids have been babies in that home, celebrated many holidays, explored the neighborhood and the nearby park, and even lived for a time (my oldest when she went to college). It's a place that's both wonderful to visit and difficult to visit because of its associations. And now it is shifting into the realm of memory, just like Joni has. Thankfully it was sold to an individual who is local and has always loved the house rather than some building company that would tear it down and build four houses in the same place.

Despite the fact that I know that I will probably cry and there will be strong emotions and, really, more grief, we're going to go. We're going to take time to remember, take pictures, and pray that it will be a sanctuary to many more people and that the love that permeated those walls will always remain.

So it's a hard day. Another case where I didn't realize how hard these things would hit me. Or that they'd hit me at all. But I'd rather deal with it head-on than put it off and have it wreck me later. At least I think I would.

Thanks for reading.



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