When There Was You

On the day I took this photo of my late husband and daughter I could not imagine that his life would end. It was not even a possibility because he was the most solid thing in my life.

When we married, I marveled at how he had one mood and it was happy. And, he was funny in such an unusual way. He saw humor in the smallest things. When we strolled through museums he would point out all the dogs in the landscape paintings. He would find one after another. It was enjoyable simply going to the grocery store with him. He was also a wonderful driver, always alert and calm, and he played great music; REM, Cold Play or Neil Young. As he drove he would sing along, his car smelling of polished leather. He always had gum in his glove box. He loved red wine and cashews. Most of all he loved to golf and he especially liked his golf partners, first Tony and Bill, then Mike and Chico, then later his best friends; Jeff, Dan and Chris. When he came home he would recount every detail he could remember of all 18 holes. He would begin on the first hole and follow me around the house until he got to the last. If he played a new course he would use the map on the scorecard to explain each stroke, where his ball landed, and which golf club he used. On the annual there was a club thrown into a pond. When he smiled he had double dimples.

Yesterday was his birthday. I woke in the darkness and lit a candle and prayed. I thanked God for having given him to me, and giving me the great honor of being a mother. I put my pen to paper, and wrote the date, September, 16th. Black ink on snowy white paper. As I wrote rain poured down. I thought even the sky is crying. I opened the door and listened as it fell. Sometimes, I can’t believe this happened, I watch my friends celebrating their 25th or 30th wedding anniversary and wonder why couldn’t that be me? On the day I took the picture of my husband and our baby I believed I would have an infinite number of sunny days like that one. One after another. I felt in particularly safe that day, standing in the doorway with my camera, taking a picture of my husband and our baby. But, we are never safe.

Lately, as the days wind down before both my daughters are away at college, and my life takes on a new shape, I make it a point to be in the moment and present. I think of the many days I spent on automatic not really noticing the things around me. Now, everything feels precious. I take my time doing things like making coffee, unloading the dish washer, or watering my flowers. I watch my capable hands as they move through these ordinary tasks.

Last night, I made spaghetti for my daughter and her friend Alyson. The traditional kind, like my mother made for me, with marinara sauce. We sat in the dining room listening to music and talking. Later, we put a candle in our desert and sang happy birthday.

Every year it hurts less, or the pain is less acute, but it’s still there. It can’t be undone. Even if I marry again, there will never be that same sense of innocence.

I read that a broken heart is a blessing because you were given the opportunity to love deeply and fully. Loss is not something you get over, but if you learn to appreciate what you do have, the burden can be made lighter until you hardly notice it. It can become simply another layer to your story, instead of a dark hole you fall into on every anniversary or birthday.

I will not have a 50th wedding anniversary, but what I do have is an opportunity to create a life of choice. I can go anywhere or live anywhere I choose. This is a miraculous place to be. I can write my own story now, and I know that story will be beautiful.

Love and blessings to all.

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