The 16th, 16 months, 16 years

‘“When you possess great treasures within you, and try to tell others of them, seldom are you believed “……. As the days passed the boy’s heart became more and more silent. The boy and his heart had become friends, and neither was capable now of betraying the other.’

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelo

The truth is you are here and you are not, my heart and my life are full and empty. I feel confusion and in chaos without you here, and I feel peace and understanding because of the love you gave. I search for you instinctively in everything: in every moment, every interaction, and every sound. I am beginning to see and hear quite clearly, you in our children. And that is a beautiful thing.

I saw you in our daughter as she teased me at the sink with the water, almost out of character for her, your joyful playfulness pulsing through her surprised me. I heard your voice as our son talked to the puppies, your tone and your heart carried through the air for me to inhale.

I’ve waited.

I’ve waited to feel these things, to hear these things, and to know that they are true. The pain has made it feel like they would never come, and now gently and joyfully they are becoming part of my days. Not like magic, or happy endings or silver linings, but as truth.

I’ve been afraid, lacked desire and been nauseated to learn anything new or to experience anything without you. It’s been 16 months, and now I’m realizing that none of it has been without you. There is no point in time where suddenly you are not part of me. You have literally been part of every moment since I said “good-bye”, as much as you were part of every moment since I said, “Hello.” This is the mystery of love and loss, of soul connection. It’s not romantic or charming or “all better now”, it’s bitterly painful and mysteriously peaceful.

I hope in a dream, I search the skies and I talk to the air we both have breathed and I wait, and wait. I wait with my heart, and my thoughts, and the deepest part of me waits for you to come home. Everything within me waits and speaks and shares and dreams and reaches and longs for you with the deepest longing and desire I could ever express.

My counselor helped me by asking why I kept saying how this seems like I’m crazy. What makes you think you are crazy ? I told her I must have heard it when someone was describing another’s grief; I couldn’t place when or who said it . Who desperately waits for one who isn’t coming back?

She just looked at me gently and confidently and said, “You are not crazy. You are a woman who deeply loved a man who deeply loved you. You are grieving and this pain and your feelings are normal.” The 11th

The 12th I looked at pictures, and remembered, and felt deeply and wept for hours.

The 13th In my dreams, I keep trying to comfort you, help you feel better , I can see you being strong but in some sort of pain. My heart aches even in my sleep. And sometimes you just come and hug me and kiss me and smile as strange dreamy things happening around us.

Our son played guitar at a friends’ wedding, and he accompanied the bride and groom as they sang a love song to each other. I decided to go at the last minute, I would have regretted missing watching him. It felt safe knowing I could leave at any moment. It felt safe being with people who didn’t know that half of me was missing. I think I felt I could forgive them if they said something thoughtless, because they didn’t know. Thoughtlessness from those who know is still too painful for me. As we visited with the couple at our table, they asked about homeschooling.

I told them about the two month trip you took us on around the United States and about our trips to Italy and how we wanted our family to grow up together, how we wanted our kids to live life together. And my heart filled up with pride as I soaked in the sunshine with strangers oblivious to my pain. Pride for what an amazing father you have been to our kids and gratitude for how lucky I am to have been your partner saturated me. I watched our daughter volunteer to serve and clean up when she saw the need. I listened to our son play so beautifully to give what he had to this couple. And my heart was full.

The jazz band we enjoyed so many times played, and I stayed, pretending you’d return to our table any moment and ask me to dance every dance. I stayed till the end, because that’s what WE would have done.

16 months

16 years

The 16th

16 months since I last saw you

16 years together remembered

The 16th my first day without you

I looked through pictures that were tagged for September of this week. You were laughing that deep laugh that I love in response to who knows what I said. That feeling of making you belly laugh tries to stay. Another year, untimely snow. Which made me think about how strange that all last summer our land produced so many beautiful flowers that comforted me, while this dry summer it seemed only to struggle to survive. Every year is so different.

At 16 years together we’re standing outside our home, and I can feel the home that we had in each other, the comfort and trust, the security and the ease of being us, and that feeling tries to stay.

The 15th Two doves were waiting at the top of the driveway. I greeted them as I slowed down and watched before they decided to fly up into the tree canopy. They reminded me of us, of peace and love , of commitment and dreams, and the dream I just had that prompted me to paint them. I smiled at the mysterious gift.

Is this joy?

The disappointment of my appointment being rescheduled vanished as I returned home just in time to join our kids to make the trip to pick up grapes. As we approached the gate to the vineyard, my daughter slowed the truck and asked, “What is that?”

I strained from the backseat to see the little animal who had just safely crossed the road.

“It’s a fox.” She confirmed as we drove past him.

We stared at each other, me and that little creature, and I smiled at him, wondering what he was doing here at this moment, on this day. 16 months. My immediate connection was to a sweet mom who’s Fox seemed to wink at me on this day, and remind me heaven is here, and we are all more connected and in more ways than we understand.

We visited with brothers who are dear to my heart. They’ve been generous and kind to us in a way only they could be. I feel your smile and your thoughts engaged as we visited. Blurry barrels and fruit embraced our laughter and learning. There are no glasses to correct my tear filled vision.

How do I gather the goodness in this grief?

I think I’m doing it, but like one who has lost their glasses which they need to see everything with,- searching, stumbling, squinting, hoping not to break what I am desperate to find, - my own unique prescription to clarify my reality, in order to see 2020 and beyond.

2020 vision isn’t a cute cliche. It’s a blurry battered lense I’ve been trying to clean in order for my heart and soul to be able to simply see what’s presently in front of me, to find my way out of my bed, to read the recipe that will nourish me each day, to be able to place one foot in front of the other.

Truth and love offer to cleanse and clarify my view, while deception and silence continually cloud it. The truth of our love story, our true story has been obscured by convenient myths about grief and the silencing of grief. I know my survival and my clarity will only come from truth.

What I know is true is that there isn’t a finish line for this grief on this side of heaven. I won’t ever be “all better”. I won’t be “back to normal” or a “new me” or an “old me”. Things don’t “always get better”, and being without my husband simply won’t “get better.” I know that this grief has forever changed me from the moment it began, and to have to defend against the cultural narrative surrounding grief has been exhausting, even when it’s just me unraveling it in my mind.

The additional sadness and suffering these falsehoods have added to grief is so unnecessary. I believe sharing could lessen someone else’s confusion and suffering as they grieve.

The terror of tomorrow is being trained like a savage animal to sit and stay. It has been mostly uncooperative. I wonder if the wildness of tomorrow will ever become tame enough to be beautiful again in the terrain of my heart. It seems I am beginning to grasp you are already there, in every one of my tomorrow’s, subduing the soul storm, gifting beauty.

Your children gathered the little bit of fruit that was left by the birds on your vines. Netting was more than we could manage this year. I felt the sorrow of betrayal, the need to apologize to you again. Assure you, your work, your dreams, your fruit, everything about you is precious to us. We are doing our best while missing you, we just couldn’t physically do it. Timidly, I told you, next year we’ll do better. Timidly because I don’t trust next week, next month, next year, I don’t know if I ever will.

Then I saw the oceans of understanding in your eyes Letting me know it was ok to be sad about the fruit, but not to feel guilt or shame, that you have no expectation other than us loving each other honestly…..

and you reminded me of the pair of doves who greeted me this morning. You whispered to me, We nourished them, you and me, this morning in our vineyard so that they could extend a beautiful, peaceful heavenly wave from my heart to yours

Winemaking September 15, 2021