A young widowed father opening up about living with loss
Last night I watched the old black and white film It’s a Wonderful Life for the first time. Released in 1946, thirty-three years before I was born, it’s about an angel-in-training who gives a despondent man driven to the verge of suicide a look at what the world would be like if he had never been born. The plot reminded me of a message I received soon after I started this blog: ‘Do you ever wish you’d never met your wife?’ the stranger asked boldly.
I was quite taken aback at the time and I don’t think I ever replied because I didn’t think the question even warranted an answer. I remember feeling quite cross that anyone could be so insensitive. But after watching the movie last night it occurred to me that perhaps that person meant no offence. Maybe they could sense how much pain I was in from what they read in my posts. Perhaps they hadn’t lost anyone close and were intrigued to know if the love felt in life was worth the pain felt in death; maybe they had and wanted to hear that they weren’t alone in their dark grief-stricken thoughts.
I imagine that many of the film’s viewers come away from it wondering what the world would be like had they never existed. This was a question that I posed about my wife instead, though. I went to bed in tears as I began to contemplate my life entirely without her: I would have felt none of the love that we shared; my life so far wouldn’t have been as much fun; I would never have met half of the friends I have today and I would have only half of the family; our son, Jackson, would quite simply never have been created. And that is just how I would have been affected. Other people whose lives she touched might not have been so successful in their careers or as happy in their lives. Relationships might never have started and, as a consequence, other children never born. It’s hard to imagine how completely different life as I now know it would be.
It is Christmas Eve as the film’s lead character, George Bailey, who is facing financial ruin and disgrace, contemplates suicide at the edge of an icy bridge. ‘Strange, isn’t it?’ his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody, begins. ‘Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?’
I know that Desreen has left an awfully big hole in many of the lives she touched now that she is gone. But I also know that that hole would be far bigger still if she’d never been here at all.