I live in an age-restricted (55 and older) setting. The mission of this village is to provide food choices, exercise and companionship that will maintain and improve health.
Each apartment has a living room, bedroom, bathroom, porch, and mini-kitchen. Communal meals are offered. Residents can practice Tai Chi, yoga and group sports together. There are non-denominational church services weekly.
But, something is missing. My wife of 50 years died a year before I moved here. Her picture is prominently displayed on a living room table. People come and go but never comment on the photo. My heart still aches. I wish visitors would ask me about my wife. I think of her every day. She’ll never be gone from my life.
You are not the only one connected to a loved one who has died. Over half of surviving spouses say they have been visited and talked to their deceased spouse.
Witness talking at a cemetery. You will hear people speaking aloud to folks who are no longer present. It’s normal to want people to ask you about your wife. Visitors may need a hint from you that speaking about her is welcome. You might say, “This is a photo of my wife. We were married 50 years and had two children. There is not a day I do not talk to her.”
Although people tend to see themselves primarily as physical beings, we are not primarily a body housing a mind and a spirit. We are a spirit animating, for a time on this earth, a body with a mind. When our body and mind wear out and are gone, the spirit remains. These spirits come into our thoughts and give rise to our voices as we encounter experiences throughout our days. Our relationship with a loved one never ends. It just changes form.
“Death brings an end to life but not to relationship.”—Robert Anderson in the play I Never Sang For My Father
Ms. Spiritual Matters
Susan Schoenbeck holds Baccalaureate and Master’s degrees in nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is an experienced educator and teaches nursing students at Walla Walla University — Portland, Oregon campus. She is an oblate of a Benedictine Monastery where she learned centering and contemplative meditation practices. She is author of the book, Zen and the Art of Nursing, Good Grief: Daily Meditations, and Near-Death Experiences: Visits to the Other Side.