Death came in the spring.
In March, the doctors said that my life mate -- my soul mate -- had inoperable kidney cancer and that he had six months to live. He had only three weeks. We’d spend thirty-four years together, and suddenly I was alone, unprepared, and totally devastated. I couldn’t even begin to comprehend the wreckage of my life. It wasn’t just he who died but “we.” There was no more “us,” no more shared plans and dreams and private jokes. There was only me.
Other losses compounded the misery. I had to leave our home, to sort through the accumulation of decades, to dismantle what was left of our life. The bereft are counseled not to make major changes during the first year after a significant loss -- one’s thinking processes become muddled, leaving one prey to faulty logic and rash decisions -- but I had no choice. My 93-year-old-father could no longer live alone.
I relocated from cool mountain climes to the heat of a desert community. Lost, heartbroken, awash in tears, I could only find comfort in walking. I walked for hours every day, getting to know the neighborhood. One day, soon after my arrival, I turned down an unfamiliar road, and followed it . . . into the desert.
I was stunned to find myself in a vast wilderness of rocky knolls, creosote bushes, cacti, rabbits, and lizards. I’d been to my parents’ new house several times while my mother was dying, but I’d never ventured far afield. I hated the heat, the bright glare of the sun, the harsh winds. After my mate died, however, that bleak weather, that bleak terrain seemed to mirror my inner landscape. Wandering in the desert, crying in the wilderness, I tried to find meaning in all that had happened. I didn’t find it, of course. How can there be meaning in the painful, horrific death of a 63-year-old man? I didn’t find myself, either. It’s too soon for me to move on, to abandon my grief. It feels like I’d be negating him and the life we led.
What I did find was the peace of the moment.
Children, most of whom know little of death and the horrors of life, live in the moment because they can -- it’s all they have. The bereft, who know too much about death and the horrors of life, live in the moment because they must -- it’s the only way they can survive.
And so, this summer, I lived as a child -- moment to moment, embracing my grief, giving no thought to the future because such thoughts brought panic about growing old alone, giving no thought to the past because such thoughts reminded me of all I had lost.
Spring gave way to summer, and now summer is flowing into fall. So flow the seasons of the soul. The spring of death gave way to the summer of grief, and now grief is flowing into the fall of renewal.
Soon this summer will be only a memory, and though part of me will always grieve, most of the pain will become a memory too, but I’ll always retain the lesson I learned as a child of grief. Life truly is lived in the moment.