Balancing on a Thread

One Week, One Year

I’ve re-lived this week every month for the past year. Spent our last day together, the sharing and the loving, our last night together, repeated good night and I love you and good morning one last time, over and over .

Every month. A week of dates draws x’s like stakes in my heart.

I have neither planned nor determined to, my soul has simply insisted.

The call, the panic,the forced composure, the drive, COVID, the waiting room, the ER room, the doctors and nurses, their words, my words, I kept telling you I’m right here. The praying, the waiting, the numbness. The loved ones in the parking lot, helpless and hoping.The sleepless night with our children. More waiting and hoping to be admitted. Seeing you, Weeping, waiting, hoping, praying, begging. Being sent an Angel to hold our hand and assure us. So many words, and waiting. Asking for rest, a day of rest for you. Pleading and promising. “Come home, I promise I’ll take care of you, just come home”. The cutting of your ring, the screaming, the wailing, the breaking. The undoing. The meeting, the giving of yourself. The sliver of peace from your selflessness.The planning. Our children, our family, me talking. More screaming and weeping. The numbness and confusion. The brokenness and the unity. The goodbyes. Your hands. Our hands. The not sleeping. The driving. The too familiar entrance. The compassionate nurses. The flag. The hugs. The waving. Imprinting Your hand. Taking your fingerprints. Washing your face. Touching your legs. Rubbing your chest. Nuzzling your nose. Laying by your side. Singing to you. Waiting without waiting. Please make it stop. Make the clock stop forever. Please. The walk. The Honor. More talking and singing.

It’s time. The kissing, more kissing. The gratitude. The good-bye. The praying for the doctors and the recipients. The crying. Our children. The embracing.

As I re-lived this week that marked one year, I comforted myself with memories of coinciding dates from years passed. So many Mother’s days fell on these dates. Images you took of me and our children smiling at you. Italy always fell on these dates. While the days of the week and the dates from last year created their own chaos in my mind, I marveled at the years of our beautiful life.

The moments passed this way, the confusion and pain increased when the most painful days and dates began to stack with trauma. Your children saying goodbye, me saying goodbye and then all of us coming home without you could not be processed or comforted in a day, or a week or a year. I became mentally and emotionally paralyzed by the time Thursday and Friday had meshed themselves together.

This was the first time this year I looked back slowly and intentionally at these particular dates in our history. I knew I would find heavenly comfort in our memories, but was completely unsure of what each day would hold.The images were so significant and more than I could take in or share.

And then it was the first day.

The first day I lived here on this planet with you in heaven.

Shocked, exhausted, numb, in disbelief and heartbroken, my body seemed controlled by someone else. Every movement, voluntary and involuntary was being done without you. Like a lake becoming an ocean, life seemed utterly impossible. It still does.

Exactly five years prior, I woke next to you in the heavenly city of Verona. I wanted to take a walk, but you were still tired. We had spent the previous day in the shadow of a castle on a temptuous lake.

Clouds curiously created a ladder in the heavens, I watched mesmerized by the stormy image like nothing I'd ever seen.

We stayed out late enjoying the sunset over the calmed Lago de Garda and dining on the lake.

A swan glided back and forth underlining the scene, it’s glassy crown seemingly tossed in the water.

Completely uncharacteristic of both of us, you stayed in bed and I rose, kissing you and assuring you I’d be quick. Hardly anyone was out that early morning when I ventured out alone. This unique morning is clearly etched in my memory, and mine alone,

because I was alone.

I made my way through what had become familiar to us over the past few days, my path the cobblestones leading to the bridge.

My lungs filled with the misty coolness of spring by the river and the greenness of the ivy draping down the ancient buildings that flanked the water.

I inhaled the fairytale that surrounded me, the fairytale of my life.

On that bridge, I looked back at the bell tower where I had left you laying in white sheets, taking long sleepy breaths of Italy, the wind waltzing with the curtains in the balcony window waiting for the church bells to wake up the city.

I was alone and you were safe.

I felt a thread of peace as delicate as a spiderweb, attached to that space under the church tower where half my heart was sleeping securely while the other half beat it’s rhythm to the swirling gray river I witnessed rushing towards the bridge.

The waves were velvety dark moving in powerful elegant scallops like a lace lined theatre curtain rushing toward its close.

We both love the Theatre, where poetry is spoken, story is sung, character is worn and life is witnessed, where the prophets of humanity have sought to move hearts and souls to dive deeper into truth and meaning. Our lives have been powerfully influenced and enriched by the art that lies between the curtain opening and closing.

The canal wove itself into drapery which seemed to fall to its close on the stage, the line of delineation between performance and audience, the bridge I had just crossed.

On the other side of the bridge, shadows and light created a liquid masterpiece of impressionism reflected on the watery calmness. The desire to both applaud and rest in the response to such a performance danced in my heart. This award worthy drama swept me in as a participant.

Who created such beauty for me to enjoy? Why was I so fortunate to experience this scene, this poetry of beautiful dark chaos and absolute peace?

My senses full, I was content there alone with this gift, and in the anticipation of sharing it with you.

The delicate web stretched and blew in the breeze that assured me our hearts were always connected as the water presented its story.

I climbed up the ancient stairs of the magnificent hill crowned with cypresses that looks upon the city. Each step was simple and royal, venerable and fresh, earthy and enchanted, each step was old and new. I looked back at my dreamy morning. Descending, slowly I made my way back over that bridge, across the divide between heaven and earth to you.

I took an image of our hands together on those white sheets that day. Your hand and mine resting, married 20 years then. Hands and eyes tell their own honest stories of serving and offering, of holding and loving. Curiously, it's the only time I’d thought to take this image, beside your last day.

Then you joined me for a walk, holding my hand. Perfume permeating the street drew us into a linen and candle shop where you bought me elegant grape patterned towels and the most aromatic potpourri. It was the fragrance of all of Italy, the gardens, the cypresses and jasmine, the churches, the incense and the wood, the steps and paths, the bridges and the waters. It smelled of memories and dreams and waking. It was the fragrance of you and me outside of time. You gifted it to me, and I breathed it in and we brought it home to fill our room.

I came home that first day last year without you and ran to our vineyard, ran into your dream, fell into our children, and began wrapping our heart threads around me like a silk worm’s cocoon.

All this year, I have struggled to breath, gasping and searching for the fragrance of timelessness.

My wild crashing chaotic tears have searched for that bridge between heaven and earth every single day and night.

I’ve wondered in awe as if I were a spectator, at being drawn into the most beautiful story imaginable and then finding myself in a tragedy, realizing this is our story, this is your story and mine, this is my one and only life.

I have longed to return to you lying in bed, in white sheets. After all this aloneness, I’ve longed to tell you all about our beautiful life.

That feeling I had as I watched the river, that I could so easily share my experience, bring you back to see the waters and the bridge, the colors and the movement, has resided in my heart every night. I have dreamed of taking your hand and saying,”Come and see.”

I have wondered why? Why is this our story ? Why? Why does my heart continue to wish for what my mind knows is impossible?

None of this is something I conjure or create anymore than what I experienced back in Verona. It simply is who I am and how I live and how much I love you.

Ascending and descending all the emotions of these agonizing days, caught in the swirling river of life here without you, I have felt those silken threads stretch and wave mysteriously, connecting us .....

I’ve delicately mounted and precariously tried to balance like a tightrope artist on the unseen….

while the bells chime faithful and careless of marking time,

simply singing to remind me you are near

And while I am alone

You are safe

written June 15, 2021

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.

from The Gospel of St. John