A parade of beaded raindrops made its way down the windowpane in parallel rivulets. I watched the repetitious journey and felt my wet cheeks in sympathy. Like the endless mantra of rain and mist that falls from the sky in the cool Pacific Northwest, the pall of grey hangs chronically over my life. The tearing asunder of souls so deeply enmeshed in one another has left me perpetually wondering who I am. My mood, like the days so often heavy with its impending tears, rarely appreciates a bright and promising day. Swellings of pain rise and fall in my chest like the swelling and recession of a concerto in a minor key. Oh Scott, I know I have repeated this ad nauseam, but I miss you so dearly and still don’t see how there can coexist joy in my life amidst such searing, inveterate pain! Before me there stretches out a ribbon of stark and snaking highway winding on into oblivion in the relentless, baking New Mexican desert. No mirage exists to even whet my appetite for the future. The earth is so dry and parched it cracks in irregular patterns as I step upon each hot, dry crust. I face each morning with a pain in my heart that, at first, I don’t recognize until the reality of another sunrise without you breaks upon my consciousness like a tidal wave. In 14 days it will have been eight long, grueling months of irrepressible, unspeakable pain since you left so suddenly that awful night. I know I will never be the woman I was when I was an indivisible part of our one life. And still, I struggle to know who I am without the part of me that is you.
Things become of such little import in this greater, vertical, more eternal perspective. Things of this world become faded—smeared into unrecognizable, and unimportant water colors—so that their significance, once thought so immense, becomes dwarfed compared with deeper awareness. Some things are returning to my consciousness, though. My ardent desire to truly contribute to the alleviation of pain in the world has blossomed into an even greater scope of all-encompassing passion that envelopes emotional, mental, and spiritual pain as well. Pain, in all its myriad forms, has haunted my nights and days both personally and corporately for quite some time. Years of physical pain have merged into emotional pain that often abbreviated my abilities to think and act. Your constant shoring up of me, your unshakable and steadfast belief in my compassionate abilities to make a difference in the lives of both humans and animals—innocent victims of cruelty or circumstance—enabled me to repeatedly overcome my personal hurdles. Now you are gone. But your encouraging smile, your constant words of confidence and belief in me through all our years, return to me in the late watches of the night, preparing me for the morning’s light and demands. Most assuredly, I would rather have those words and beliefs whispered in my ear by the warmth of your breath, but I know that will never again be my gift in this life. I miss you my darling. I miss you as dearly, though perhaps not as tumultuously, as I did at the beginning. But I still need your unwavering support just as desperately. Many still express both their belief and hope in me; perhaps that is enough.
It is more embarrassing, or maybe I am just more cognizant of being noticed, when I break into my crying “jags.” I was in the DMV the other day, attempting to take care of those vehicle requirements you always did for me so effortlessly. After waiting stoically in line for 30 minutes, I ushered myself to the window of an abrupt, cool representative. I use the word “representative” because that is the term we repeatedly have to scream into the phone to get a human being to respond. Anyway, I apparently did not complete the title information correctly on the 4Runner, and was woefully late in exchanging the title, and getting it licensed and registered. Lord, I hardly knew what all of it even meant! My best friend Michelle would have told me, the same way she’d always say to people who fussed about unimportant things, “Honey, don’t get your drawers in a wad!” I never understood the colloquialism, but it was impressive in its effect! The tears had begun to burn behind my eyelids and that strange but familiar swelling began in my chest, and I knew I was going to lose it. I had difficulty answering the representative’s questions, and it was hard to breath beneath the mask that impeded my oral respirations. As I began to cry in earnest, she began to soften. Either from embarrassment or pity but, whichever, we concluded our business amicably enough, and I bowed my head and made a beeline for the safety and privacy of said 4Runner. There are so many other instances where the loss of you has overwhelmed me, but they are redundantly the same. Different people, different times, different circumstances, but always that same, melting, broken-hearted response. I wish you were here, even if only to tell me that my immense grief is OK.
After the girls are in bed, I sit out on the little terrace as the sun sinks in the west and gaze dispassionately at the beautiful lake flanked by her mountain sentinels. I hold my phone in my sweating palm and scroll through our pictures yet again. Tonight, I felt your soft, perfectly coifed hair again on my fingertips. I ran my fingers repeatedly through it, reveling in the sensation once again. I touched your baby soft cheek along the bone to where it fanned out into delicate laugh lines at the edges of your down-turned, puppy dog eyes. I thought I felt a tear trickle across my finger from the edge of your eye, but no. I reached down and took your large, calloused hand in both of mine and savored the warmth and strength pulsing through it. Slowly awakening from my lovely reverie, I realized that, once again, I was living in your photograph. Like Alice in her looking glass, I readily transpose my reality with that on the more pleasant side of the mirror and immerse myself in that alternate reality—a reality that was once truly mine such a short time ago. And, of course, I cry. I cry and cry and cry without consolation, into the approaching night full of its empty promises.
I don’t know if this nightly vigil I hold in my soul with you is healthy, just as I don’t know if all I still feel and yearn for is. Who knows what it takes for each of the millions of broken hearts to mend—if only into taped and pasted versions of their former selves. I do know that in some subconscious sector of my being, it bestows a measure of relief and, yes, healing. It is dark now and the sky is a deep purple-peach, bejeweled with stars emerging from their daylight hibernation. I crane my neck to take in the whole picture and feel a sliver of that peace that passes understanding; that peace Jesus promises amid life’s most afflictive blows. I am beginning to recognize the personal meaning of the old poem Footprints, and am repentant and humbled by my lack of sensitivity to the fact I was being carried this entire time. We skim over its profound message as we do the Serenity Prayer because we have heard it so often, and thus, we miss it when the message is the very voice of our loving God speaking personally to us. I still ask repeatedly, of anyone who cares to listen, “I don’t think I can do this. Can I do this? This thing called living without you?” But I already know the answer. Because life continues to march relentlessly onward, and I march with it.