Columnists > Judgment Calls

Depth perception

Loss of a spouse is also loss of a perspective

Issue: "Paying the price," Feb. 9, 2002

There is a three-legged cat in my neighborhood. As far as I know, his only sin was to be born too close to the railroad tracks. Moses (his name) lives two houses down from me, so every now and then, if we're both setting out for the day at the same time, our eyes will meet and there is a moment of recognition-the feline with a hind leg missing, and that other amputee, sans spouse. Then the fat gray tabby lumbers off to do whatever a three-legged cat can still do when his bird-catching days are over, and I do the same.

A straight shot through the core of the earth, a one-eyed mongrel named Pangouri lies tethered to a corrugated tin-roofed cottage in the rice paddy village of Puan, victim of an untoward impulse to veer too close to a mother and her pups. The odd thing is that his master (my father-in-law) also lost the sight in one eye not long after his son (my husband) died. Some people think there was a connection. In any case, I heard he had a little fender-bender soon after that, which did not surprise me one bit since, whatever Korean driving laws allow, I know that you really need two good eyes on the road for depth perception.

Depth perception is the single biggest thing I miss in marriage. You can keep your Saturday night movie dates and the other perks of matrimony; I can live without them all. What causes me to lumber about and walk into walls these days, however, is the forfeit of a perspective other than my own. If personalities are colors, I see indigo and my husband always saw yellow-which is the reason I married him in the first place. Together we could be a good start toward a rainbow. We could be "thesis / antithesis / synthesis," and on a good day, "iron sharpening iron." Alone I am a cyclops.

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Notwithstanding a fashion among movie starlets like Jodie Foster to opt for who-needs-a-father parenting, what I see is multi-perspectivalism even in the Trinity (Genesis 1:26; 11:7; Proverbs 8:22; Acts 2:33-35). Reality is profoundly relational and collaborative.

Even Moses (the other one) had to be rebuked by his father-in-law for the hubris of thinking he could judge every case by himself; I understand he got 70 men to help. OK, he had 1 million litigants to adjudicate for and I have only four, so I should not exaggerate my problems. But it's a good principle Jethro had there: "What you are doing is not good.... Select capable men ... men who fear God.... That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you"(Exodus 18). And what's good for Judges is good for private citizens too ("Two are better than one ... if one falls down, his friend can help him up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.... Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves"(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

The headwater of this stream of one-anothering is Genesis 2:18, of course: "It is not good for man to be alone"-which is quite a thing to say, considering that no less a One than God Himself was with him all the time!

To be sure, there is always the church-expanded mutuality-and I'm lately keen on claiming doctrine about membership in that body of Christ. But life is not tidy. The best questions and worst crises come at 2:15 a.m. It's those powwows I miss, when I woke the man beside me with urgent queries that couldn't wait till morning, like "Do you think Jeroboam's little boy was saved?" By breakfast time the crisis is past and the issue forgotten, or at least it would require considerable motivation to dredge it up again and look up some elder's phone number.

My husband, with that other set of chromosomes of his, would no doubt frown a bit over my words and bid me tweak this essay's lament (indigo) into an appreciation (yellow), find the nugget of encouragement in the dung pile, polish it up, and then send it off for Valentine's Day and not for Maundy Thursday. That's marriage at its best.

And so, in his honor, here is my "cup half full," a post facto marriage appreciation, and a looking forward in faith to the Age of Completeness, when "never again will there be an infant who lives but a few days or an old man who does not live out his years" (Isaiah 65:20), or wedding banquets that run out of wine, or limbs that hang limp and useless, or widows and three-legged cats.

Andrée Seu
Andrée Seu

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


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