As I drove through the rolling green hills, giant oaks were standing and stretching the way they do so elegantly, I kept looking for places to stop. Hillsides blanketed in white wildflowers looking ready for a bride to walk toward her lover begged me to pause. So many memories of asking you to wait so I could soak up the beauty of Spring embrace me. You honored that part of my soul.
I found a place framed in blossoms that whispered a secret.
“The intense longing you feel for your lover,
the deepest place of pain is the longing for heaven.
It is one and the same.
Because you experienced heaven on earth countless times together
your spirit is speaking, begging.
‘Take me to what I know is true, where I know life in the fullest.
Take me to where all is good and right and so full of the light of love,
where pain is purified by truth.
Take me to heaven where he took me countless times in countless ways.’”
I turned the corner, exiting into town, seeing and feeling you and the many times we made this turn. That intoxicating feeling of arriving with you gently filled me me as agonizing grief crashed over me simultaneously.
This must be what it feels like to be caught in an undertow, to be surrounded by beauty and suffocated by it at the same time.
Andrea Bocelli began singing “I Am Here” randomly on the radio, and I felt you everywhere. We have driven all the back streets together as you held my hand in yours. Being with you, so in love and in such a beautiful place which you had planned for us to enjoy was always euphoric.
What an amazing gift. Did you even know?
Did you see how happy you made me?
Did I say thank you enough?
Did you know how grateful I am for your love?
My mind is desperate to remember it all.
This is the wrestle of a broken heart, the chaos of losing your true love.
Of course you knew, and yes, I thanked you countless times.
We loved truly.
But the agony of grief spits doubt and lies into the wreckage death leaves behind.
I am here.
Trying to be brave.
Trying to accomplish the first trip by myself, as if it’s some sort of first work out. Trying to find a “sacred space” that’s my own, that someone told me I’d need as I “find myself”, though I have no idea what this truly means.
I’m here trying to be a brave grown-up for our kids, so they won’t worry about me. I’m here imagining that surely the ocean is bigger than this grief and holds more water than my tears, and this truth will somehow help me to have hope.
I’m here because I can’t imagine going somewhere “new” for my first trip. I’m here because I know you would have brought me here if I told you of the artist I have admired.
I’m here because there’s a tiny window of time between significant dates that I can imagine the possibilities of being brave. I’m here because there are so many beautiful memories you gave me that can embrace me in this pain as I try to be brave.
I checked into the hotel, visiting a little with the friendly front desk personnel, just like last time. I unpacked my things in the room that we had almost stayed in last Valentines. We walked in and had sat down for a minute.
It was quiet. I realized we were near the pool equipment and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to sleep well in the night. So you had us moved to another room. You did that on our first anniversary too, moved us out of a smoky room to a clean smelling one. I had been afraid to ask, thinking I was somehow being ungrateful or difficult. You just moved us with no eye rolling at the work involved, or making me feel like a burden, just genuine concern for my comfort.
This is love.
To be listened to and cared for.
Now, this room welcomes my broken heart, this place we were in together, for a moment in space and time.
The room we actually stayed in is taken. I pass it as I come and go, peaking in when the windows are open
if we are in there……….
I wonder if I’ll want to stay there. Because it was beautiful- our time there. And now everything is painful, everything that was beautiful still is beautiful, but is wrapped up in pain.
There’s so much fear being sucked under, and still a desperate hope of seeing the light and of breathing again in this undertow.
Driving myself into town I realize the town is completely familiar, me driving in it isn’t. I had to pay attention through the tears to the two-way stop signs and through streets while I was lost in memories of being here with you. I found a parking spot and walked to our favorite restaurant. Somehow a salesperson swiped me from the sidewalk, into their shop and started putting lotion on my face and hands and tried to sell me wrinkle cream in the nicest of ways. Complimenting my mask, did I make it? My hair, LOVE the hair.
I couldn’t speak.
I couldn’t feel my skin.
I couldn’t say anything.
My husband died and you're touching what isn’t yours. Those were the words stuck in my throat for someone who had no idea every wrinkle and spot, every line and dot is actually your name written on my face and hands.
I whispered I’d think about it, and in a daze walked out.
I didn’t have you next to me holding my hand to walk me past the store.
The sky was gray, the town felt gray, the gray sidewalk swallowed my feet walking alone.
What am I doing here?
You’re being brave, remember.
I arrived at the restaurant and asked to be seated inside.
A customer heard me and told me how nice it was to sit outside.
She was probably a nice person encouraging a fellow human being to enjoy the outdoors, but why did she have to invade my thoughts.
Why did I feel if I didn’t respond I would be rude?
Why did she make my mind have to think another thought?
I like to sit outside. If he was with me, I would have asked if WE could sit outside.
I would have thanked her for the suggestion. This is so painful.
My husband and I ate inside last time.
The last time there was no outside seating. It was the last time.
Why am I forming these painful responses to a random stranger?
I thought them, I felt them, but I didn’t speak them.
When I sat down I looked at the napkins, the cloth napkins and I wanted to ask the waiter to go find the one you had used.
Please go find it.
Please find the one that touched his lips- I know you can find it.
No, I’m not crazy. This is what happens when you lose an angel. You simply want every particle of earth that heaven touched.
I was seated at a little table with a single chair, very near the last place that we sat. I ordered my favorite dish and they served me quickly.
I asked for a glass of wine.
The server waited patiently for my choice.
The wine list blurred as my eyes filled with memories.
You always ordered my wine, talked to me about the choices, thoughtfully considered what I’d like and then confidently ordered.
“The house wine”, I choked out.
The waiter rattled off the choices.
I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t answer him.
I just looked at him and tried to breathe.
Somehow I spoke the last word he had, “Merlot”.
Do I even like Merlot?
I asked if I could just have a taste and he obliged. The service is always excellent here. He pours slowly and I remember the time that I was the chosen customer to wear the scarf with coins, wrapped around my hips and the owner sang and danced me around the restaurant.
I remember the laughter, and choosing to not be embarrassed, choosing to live and laugh. I remember feeling safe because you were there smiling at me.
I smiled back.
I was served dessert compliments of the house, as always, two pieces of baklava. Someone had moved a chair to the other side of the table facing me, but didn’t tuck it in. The chair sat looking at me as if it were waiting for you to return and share dessert. I took a bite and looked at the empty chair. You always, always shared the last bite with me. I took another bite and left the other piece for you. I smiled because I was married to the kindest, most selfless gentleman, and I cried because I miss you with every fiber of my being.
This gourmet food and wine watered down with tears and swallowed between gasps makes me ask again-
Why am I here?
Remember, you are being brave and you are living.
Who told me to be brave?
Why am I living?
This question has floated in my mind everyday since I last saw you. Sometimes it’s cried out as if from an infant, other times ii is barely formed and innocent as if from a young child. Sometimes it’s screamed in teenage angst and other times it is spoken with motherly care. But mostly, it’s wept in the deepest loving whisper and tied to the golden threads that have woven our two hearts into one. The question waits and hopes.
I wrote the waiter a note when I paid for my dinner. I thanked him for serving me and shared it was my first time back after losing you. He was very kind, returning to introduce himself.A---. He apologized for my loss. He touched his heart and communicating he understood, he had lost his mother. Come back soon, it’s like a family here, he said as he gifted me a bottle of the Merlot. I thanked him again. More tears. Poor A---, I apologized and he shook his head, it was fine he understood.
His compassion toward me sutured up my heart just enough to hope in the kindness of others. I know my heart will tear open again and again. I have experienced tiny stitches of care from others that I know my husband is grateful for in his love for me, tiny stitches that strengthen me until the next tear.
I whispered thank you
My husband and kids on the beach