By James A. Autry
Publisher’s Note: It is a blessing to know Jim Autry, having spent time with him a number of years ago recording a beautiful interview. Jim has written extensively; articles, books and poetry. He has given permission to reprint this heartfelt piece from his most recent book, “Choosing Gratitude; Learning To Love The Life You Have”
My first wife, the mother of my two older sons, died recently. We were divorced over 40 years ago, but I was profoundly grieved by her passing. I was sad, of course, for my sons who had lost their mother, but beyond that, I was sad for myself.
I know there are those who’d question why I would grieve the death of someone from whom I was divorced. The answer, I believe, is found somewhere within the nature of love.
We’ve all heard the expression, “Love never dies.” But doesn’t it? Maybe we should add, “But love changes.” I don’t mean changes from one person to another, but changes in the particular power that gives people the comfort and support and intense connection they need to stay married. Perhaps it’s that change that loosens the bonds.
I don’t know. I do know that divorce is no less complicated than marriage. It is, at the same time, an ending and a beginning, and having been through it, I can’t believe that anybody makes that transition without suffering some sense of loss, regardless of the next phase of their lives.
So, back to the question of why I grieved the passing of someone from whom I am divorced: The better question is how could I not be saddened by the death of someone I loved and with whom I had children, someone who left her last year of college to go with me into the world, someone who’d endured the harrowing experience of being a jet fighter pilot’s wife and seeing other young wives become young widows, someone who’d worried and prayed with me when our son was stricken with epilepsy?
Of course I was sad.
This whole process has brought clarity to my feelings about the divorce and has given me some perspective. I realize that it’s okay for me to look back at the good years and the shared experiences and to be grateful for them without regretting the divorce itself. I do regret what it put my sons through, and that’s a pain I’ll just have to continue to deal with.
But I am also the most fortunate of men in that my wife of thirty years, Sally, not only understood but supported me as well her step-sons. It is she who arranged the planting of a tree on the statehouse grounds to honor the memory of their mother.
When we gather at the planting, I know I’ll be sad again, but standing there with my sons and with Sally, I think I’ll understand at last the truth that “Love never dies.”
Reprinted from “Choosing Gratitude; Learning To Love The Life You Have,” (Smyth & Helwys, 2012), by permission of the author.