I sleep in the center of the bed now. Three years after my husband’s death I have moved from “my side” to this new venue. It has been a gradual, unconscious, inching toward the middle. A metaphorical grief journey of sorts. A movement toward acceptance of what is no more: two bodies, warm, entwined, holding hands before sleep, spooning through the night, comforting in storms, ancient oak branches hitting roof and deck, lightening flashing, thunder cracking safe in each others arms. No more whispered nothings, no more laughter before sleep. No more conversations when troubles loom, when possibilities are parsed, finally given over to prayers, to the Our Father. No more quiet gazing at the love of my life, a lock of silver hair gracing his brow. No more listening to the soft even breathing he takes in deep sleep.
Today is the third anniversary of my husband’s death. His vital spirit departed his earthly body at 12:10 AM, Monday, March 7, 2016. Three years gone like yesterday or three years gone like a lifetime ago. I see his last breaths, long, slow and then stilled. I watch the color fade, feel the warmth diminish. His spirit taking flight. Despite our agony, our profound sadness, it is a Holy time, a thin place, the diaphanous gauze that separates heaven and earth, life and death nearly indistinct.
I woke at three this morning to a whining wind, gusting, screeching, crescendo-ing to near 50 mph. I see oaks, black silhouettes swaying fearfully beyond my window. I bury my ears in blankets and pillows but cannot take my eyes off the spectacle before me. Something about the latest manifestation of the Polar Vortex fascinates.
I keep writing my grief journey because there is more to say. It is January and the days are starkly reminiscent of what it was like three years ago to watch fearfully as my husband of 57 years began to fade before my eyes. The snowstorms, the freezing rains, the pewter skies trigger feelings of anxiety. Winter in the Midwest, cold permeating, many months to go, and me, with a dull dread underlying those months leading up to March 7, 2016.
Today I visit a favorite store in Glen Ellyn. It is a place where Bob bought me jewelry for special occasions, a place where the proprietor “knows my name” and knew his. A place where, when I visited a few weeks after he died, the owner, Margo asked, “and how’s Bob?” When I told her he had died she began to cry, came around the counter and hugged me.
Today I am on a mission. I am on a mission to replace the last gift he bought me on Valentine’s Day 2016. He bought it three weeks before he passed to heaven.The gift is a beautiful bracelet with semi-precious stones of variable colors and designs, linked with silver so that it hangs loosely on my wrist. He writes a Valentine message in an accompanying card which I keep in my Bible. I wear the bracelet every day. And every night I take it off with my watch and place it on the cherry red velvet seat of an antique chair in my bedroom, ready to be worn the next day.
The cemetery is familiar territory. A solemn respite in Midwestern environs. A family plot. A place where a young sibling, both parents and my husband’s earthly remains reside. We gather in scattered twos and threes. A stone urn our focal point. Early morning sun gleams gold, long rays streaking turf. We shiver for autumn chill penetrates. We are here for Pat, oldest Carlson sibling. “The smartest one” who lost her daunting mental capacity a little more than three years ago. Whose keen awareness as cognition failed wounded her heart, our hearts. We watched her slip, slip away.
Spring comes hard to the Midwest. This morning a 29 mile an hour wind buffets oaks, slants rain horizontal, creeps into window crevices, plummets temperatures to high 30’s. It could snow tomorrow! I clutch hot coffee with both hands. Watch from my bed nature’s onslaught. Defying the golden hope of warmer days, benign winds. Defying a spring when all of Nature’s varied greens abound.
My old Jeep Cherokee sits forlorn, hunkered among the gleam and glitz of models who glare new-ness in the afternoon sun. My old Jeep served us well. Never mind leather worn seats, a nick or two on her body. Never mind I’ve put money into her since Bob died, me on yet another learning curve called “car maintenance”.
I loved his hands. Neat, square and strong. Nails clipped, slightly callused. Capable hands. Hands that gripped an ax, chopped wood, built a fire with finesse. Hands that tinkered. Hands that produced a distinctive, legible cursive. Hands that raked an acre of land with 20 odd oaks every autumn for 44 years.