(We know the day we were born, but most of us do not know the day we will die. This love letter to my life is written on the day I've designated as my death day: the 17th of every month, and reminds me to be grateful for my joy-filled life.)
Change comes in many forms from the slow creeping rise of oceans to the sharp cataclysmic fractures of the earth or fire-spewing volcanic eruptions. Aging is a slow form change, advancing cell by cell, obscured by the blur of life until time and the river sweeps everything away in one last heartbeat moment, leaving a barren but fallow griefscape for those left behind.
I am in Santa Barbara. It’s not where Richard died; it’s where we lived. Its streets trace our former life like lines criss-crossing the palms of my hands. I’m left wondering how I will make new paths in this deeply furrowed soil as I plan the return to our place, the place we claimed when love was new, where memories of shared sights and sounds, loves and losses, roll in and out like morning fog.
This Thanksgiving season of his death is especially poignant as I walk through the inescapable past; every step a paper cut memory: the what-ifs and if-onlys, the words still unspoken, the remembered hopes and dreams of yesterday, the finality of change that has no tomorrow.
With this possibility of returning with new skills and dreams as well as deeper wisdom, softened and strengthened by grief, I tug at the door so firmly closed years ago. The beauty of this place floods in mingling with the pain, the tears, the joy and heartbreak. Years of solitude and carefully controlled sorrow shatter into a what-now confusion as this place I adore invites my return, alone, without the love and the man who brought me here so many years ago.
All the things I know, all the wisdom I’ve gathered, cluster like monarchs on a somber day: colorless things waiting for warming sunshine before spreading their bright wings and continuing on their way. I know that sunny day will come to me also; I just have to walk forward into this gift of life, this one more chance to live in the only place my heart calls home.
|Richard and baby Ava (now 20)|