(My new novel – this one is number three – was born last night. Here is the first stab at the opening paragraphs. Working title: Because It Is Beautiful.)
She was forty-two when her husband died. Both of her parents were still alive then, and she had wondered from time to time how it was going to feel when she lost someone close. And as she sat in the second pew, the one reserved for family, and heard the pastor recount her dead husband’s virtues – his work ethic, his sense of humor, his faithfulness, his love of the Cincinnati Reds, she knew that it didn’t feel like she thought it would. She had worried about falling apart; about being overcome with grief; about giving up. She knew she was not ready. She knew that her life had been easy; she had not been hardened.
But here it was, the great loss, and she did not feel like giving up. She wasn’t overcome. In fact, she had even faked some emotion when speaking to her husband’s friends and family at the visitation the evening before the funeral. It was not the case that her marriage was some awful horror that she had quietly and dutifully suffered and was finally glad to be rid of. Her husband had been all the things that the pastor said. He had in fact loved her, provided for her and made a life for them that almost anyone she knew would have traded her for. They laughed a lot; they traveled and worked on the house together; they had many friends and money in the bank. His joking manner was endearing, and he was very kind to her aging parents. Who could have wanted more?
There had been disappointments, of course. Their major one a genetic flaw in him that prevented their conceiving, but millions before them had done without children and millions of those – including one set of their dearest friends – had, nonetheless, been happy and fulfilled. And long before their twenty years together were abruptly ended she had reconciled herself to childlessness.
She wrestled silently with guilt over her lack of grief. How could she be so cold? Had she really loved him? Maybe it just had not hit her yet. Maybe in a few days or even weeks grief would come in full fury and incapacitate her for months. She almost hoped that it would. Almost.