Oh Scott, this week will be such a bewildering onslaught of painful events! Our anniversary is in two days and I dread the loss of your face across the candlelit table, the long-stemmed, red roses you always brought, and the chocolate covered strawberries after, with a bottle of champagne. I kept all the anniversary cards you gave me over the years and I am trying to read them through the window of tears. I remember one year when you tried to write me a poem. It was beautiful. I shall quote one of your cards: “My beloved Jane, I am blessed, indeed, and so very thankful for all that you are. Amidst all of the ups and downs we have weathered together in our life, I am so thankful that you have always been there by my side, and that we can enjoy all the triumphs together, and field the challenges hand in hand. I love you with all of my heart—Scott.”
I feel the tug of the gossamer thread that forever ties my heart to yours, even within the impossible distance between your world and mine. I bought a card for you and I wrote and wrote all over it, trying to find those final words of love that would strive to speak of all the beautiful years of bliss we shared since that most joyous day when we were wed. My heart aches to live it again, sitting across from you at Georgios in a quiet dark, candlelit booth that made us both look younger than our years. We’d talk for hours; in the earlier years, of the future, in the later years, of the past. But always with our love at the center of the tightly woven cord of three strands. I really thought that cord was longer. I suppose everyone does. I really thought the kids would throw us a big party to celebrate our 50th anniversary. I thought we would sit in rockers with babies on our laps watching the grown children and their families all around in a loud, chaotic, and beautiful culmination of our life. I always saw us as one of those old couples still sitting across from each other at that romantic restaurant, reaching across the crisp white linen to hold hands in a beautiful, annual ritual of eternal love. But it was not to be. This year I will sit across from your dear sister, and mine, and try to glean your features in hers. She will hold my hand when I cry in a quiet, discreet booth, that it is not your hand holding mine.
A week later, on my birthday, we will somberly celebrate your life and I will accept the gratitude and honor bestowed upon you as we finally lay your earthly ashes to rest in the ground. As always, there is my place, next to yours for some sweet day when we will be together again. There will be honor guards from the Coast Guard and the Army, a eulogy from our dear pastor and friend, Bob, presentation of the flag to your widow, and a 21 gun salute in honor of the finest man, and an officer and gentleman beyond compare. I will accept these honors on your behalf, proud and bereft at the same time. We will rejoice together afterward, with a few, safely “distanced” friends and family in a celebration of your life, gazing at pictures, and listening to each others’ testimonies of fond remembrances with you. You are so terribly missed, dear Scott, by so many! Your children are so broken-hearted, and some of us are just plain old broken, yearning to ask for your wisdom, to revel in your wise and loving answers. Some did not have near enough time with you. The Lord must now be my husband, and a Father to our youngest, fatherless children. Little Luna’s, Austin’s, mine, and Amaya’s birthdays will certainly lack the fun of celebration without all we did together to make those days special, especially your wonderful and infamous games! Everything has changed. It has changed so drastically that you would not recognize it and I know you would be so disappointed and grieved. I am so very thankful that there are no tears or sadness in Heaven! I have no choice but to step into this week with fear and trepidation, holding tightly to hands that are offered to me. I will try to be strong and brave, and be a comfort and encouragement to all the others also grieving so terribly. I love you so dearly Scott. I always will. And for you, I will do this daunting thing.
And when it is all over, and all return to their respective lives, I will return to what life I have now. I will open my eyes and appreciate the encompassing mountains day after day after day. This journey is terribly long, painful, and arduous, and I wish so often, there was a way out. I so want to be with you and I know I will eventually, for eternity, but the “eventually” seems so horribly interminable. I keep remembering that dreadful, unspeakable night. I keep remembering it, snippets of terrible moments suddenly appearing unbidden, on the big screen of my mind. Details, sounds, smells assail me and I don’t think I can bear it. Each night I watch and wait, ever vigilant for fear of reliving the nightmare yet again. When I inevitably doze, I am awakened by my own plaintive shrieks of “Don’t go! Don’t go!” Don’t go!” I am hard pressed to let go of my Brigadoon—which the recesses of my heart realized at the onset, it would be. I so want to go back and relive those eight months, your last and perhaps even our best and happiest. Yet the monotonous chimes of the grandfather clock you and your dad built remind me it is a one-way road forward. They say I have severe PTSD, and I suppose it is only logical that I do—Avari, Amaya, and I. I wish our littlest daughters hadn’t been there dearest, but the past is the past. We are all trying to be understanding and kind to one another, as volcanoes of emotion sometimes erupt inexplicably. We continually look at pictures with you, and I’ve made collages of you with each one of the girls for their bedrooms. Amaya is planting you a flower garden, being sure the bulk of the blooms are lupine, and has a painted rock to place in it that says “I miss you Daddy.” Autumn is beginning a challenging wood model of a three-masted, square rigged barque that I bought online. She loves to build, and ships will always make us feel you are near, sailing by our sides, until this world’s time is over. She named the ship Lady Jane because, she says that’s what you always named your boats. Avari is making a poster with pictures of her and you, and surrounding each with scripture verses and various and sundry stickers. It’s really quite lovely.
But some days I lay curled up fetally in bed, my body wracked with weakness and the pain of Lupus and Lyme disease, without the least desire to try my wobbly sea legs and step out into the blue desert that is the world outside. Oh Scott, how can I keep walking on, disabled as it were, with one leg, one arm, one half of a heart and a brain? I try, but stumble repeatedly among the potholes and boulders that line my way, and fall. I get up, brush off the dirt, ignoring the cuts and abrasions on my palms and knees, and try again and again to travel forward. I search in vain for someone to travel with me so I won’t feel so gnawingly alone, but this is a journey with room for only one, on a one-way, narrow, oppressive path with shackled ankles that chaff and bleed. There are no byways, short cuts, or beltways to avoid traveling on this particular road…alone. And I must go through it. Like walking on hot coals, each step is searingly painful and my only option is to relieve that step by another just as painful. Admittedly, the coals, some days, seem less blistering. This is, perhaps, even worse because I feel like I am leaving you in the past and I don’t want to. I desperately want to stay in our beautiful past together. What shall I do Scott? Keep trying, I know. If you don’t succeed, don’t succeed, don’t succeed, try and try and try again. Such a terrible, painful journey! Though my particular path is mine alone to travel, I know there are others whose tears line their paths as well. They have lost their parent, brother, sister, child, and as I have, the most precious person in their lives—their most beloved spouse. My heart travels with you who are in this grief journey, alongside your road, on my own. It helps, doesn’t it, to know that we are not truly alone? There are other bruised, bleeding, and broken hearts that must travel this cruel road as well. I will open my blind, tearful eyes, look side to side, and say some kind, encouraging, strengthening word to those on adjacent, parallel paths. Take my hand and we’ll glean courage and strength from our corporate pain, to get to the other side.