In the game of grief, I’ve had a special bonus round as I’ve worked to clean up Catherine’s studio, across the hall from my own shop, over the last ten months.
St. Paul’s Anglican Church has been extraordinarily patient with me, for which I will be forever grateful; as recently as a month ago the studio looked like a slightly reordered version of how it was when Catherine last shut the lights and closed the door. It was an overwhelming task, and I was overwhelmed; deadlines I set for myself — March 31, September 30 — came and went, and I couldn’t find the motivation to just deal with the everything of it all.
While there was, indeed, the practical challenge of simply dealing with unravelling the materials and supplies accumulated over a lifetime of art practice, lurking in the background was the larger spiritual challenge of what amounted to erasing tangible evidence of Catherine. I wasn’t fully aware of just how much of the daunting quality of the task was daunting because of that until this morning, as I made the last push to the summit.
The summit, it turns out, is a lonely place, and the prize for playing the bonus round is a physical manifestation of the emptiness that Catherine’s absence has left.
I confront the emptiness with equal parts melancholy and hope; as I wrote my family yesterday, “What I can feel happening slowly, sometimes very slowly, is the start of the end of the time of my life where I am defined by Catherine’s absence and instead am focused on other things. Future things.” Reaching the summit of emptiness is an important way station, a necessary one. I don’t want to stay here too long, but I do have to stay here for awhile.