Intent on texting his wife Julie, forty-five year old George steps off of the curb, is hit by a bus and dies quickly. At the burial, after the final shovelful has been tossed in, Julie stands there, staring down at the hole in an uncomprehending daze, not registering the condolences being offered. Suddenly, she looks up at the crowd of mourners and says aloud in a bewildered voice, “I’m 46 now. We’ve been together since I was 18. I don’t know how to be me without him. Without him, I’m not sure that I even know who ‘me’ is!”
In subsequent days Julie’s solution to her bereft confusion is to embrace avoidance. She begins to tell herself that she will accomplish a task on some nebulous “tomorrow” which, not surprisingly, never comes. She says that she will attend a dinner party and then never shows up. Whereas previously her tender heart prompted her to give something to street beggars, now she deliberately does not see them lest the pain of their ship-wrecked lives remind her of the unknown place upon which her own grief has stranded her. And then one morning, as if waking from the incoherence of a long fever, she is astonished to see dirty dishes in the sink, dirty dishes on the counter, on the table, on the chairs and even on the floor! As she goes from room to room she is presented with the truth of her avoidance: a Hansel and Gretel trail of unopened mail throughout the house, more dirty laundry on the floor than clean laundry in the closet or her dresser, and even the un-flushed toilet! She has the strange thought: no one wants to die. Even those who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. I didn’t die, but I’m not living. This has to stop… now!
For those things with which we refuse to deal there is often a real reason other than the one we offer to others and even to ourselves. If we are to be happy… which is how we know that we are alive… the day comes when truth refuses to stop knocking on our door, when we must open that door and face ourselves; at that moment we get to choose. We get to choose who and how we will be from hereon. We get to choose a new life. We get to know that there is life beyond the pain. Are your dishes piling up? What are you avoiding? Are you happy? Are you alive?