Anniversary of the Heart

Frank, just behind me as I look out from the studio, 2012

The holiest of all holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
The secret anniversaries of the heart.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

 

 

 

Frank is on my mind a lot these days – March 10 this year marks the second year anniversary of his passing. I miss him and I am still grieving his death. I likely will continue forever.

Today I am thinking of the many ways people have thought to console me through my grief over the past two years.

There is a prevalent thought, an attitude that deep grief is something to move through and get past. We say things to each other, meant to comfort….

He will always be in your heart.

            Now he is a part of your soul.

            God needed him more.

            It is important to get on with your life, past the grief.

But somehow each well meant phrase left me in an abyss. I couldn’t quite get my mind around how it felt to have Frank buried in my heart or my soul – or that God needed him more. Or what was meant by getting on with life. I thought – of course I was continuing on – every day. Every minute…feeding the dogs, tending the garden, shopping at the feria for fresh fruits and vegetables like Frank and I did every Thursday… I continued. I got on with the actions and motions of my life. Step by step by step as I had done for seven hundred thirty days. And nights.

Somewhere along the way I began to notice that the deep grief over losing Frank had shifted a bit. I hardly noticed it at first.

I began to experience myself almost as an unfamiliar person. It was as if the sharp thrust of excruciating pain I first felt at finding Frank dead that morning had sliced through into a new, un-experienced part of myself. Like I fell into a hidden cave that had not been explored. I slowed down – looked at things more closely and waited a little longer to shift my attention. I began to notice the synchronicities all around me – and I’ve written about many of them. The Atlas moth resting below the Blue Morpho butterfly for three days. The bird that appears just outside my window while I write deeply – as it is doing right now. The changes in the eyes of my dogs. The colors – searing golds and passionate reds. I noticed that my feelings about certain people shifted just in a moment. I felt more compassion, more patience. I also found myself more selective about who I spent time with. Just a few. I settled more comfortably into being alone and resisted the long standing advice that it isn’t ‘good’ to stay alone too much.

 

“You need to get out more, Jan”

Not necessarily.

 

My preferred connections to people were through skype calls with special ones, intimate lunch dates where I could have long conversations and laughter, and selected casual interactions on Facebook. I was exploring new territory within myself. And I was finding something akin to enjoyment in the new place.

Dean Koontz expressed some of it.

“Grief can destroy you –or focus you. You can decide a relationship was all for nothing if it had to end in death, and you alone. OR you can realize that every moment of it had more meaning than you dared to recognize at the time, so much meaning it scared you, so you just lived, just took for granted the love and laughter of each day, and didn’t allow yourself to consider the sacredness of it. But when it’s over and you’re alone, you begin to see that it wasn’t just a movie and a dinner together, not just watching sunsets together, not just scrubbing a floor or washing dishes together or worrying over a high electric bill. It was everything, it was the why of life, every event and precious moment of it. The answer to the mystery of existence is the love you shared sometimes so imperfectly, and when the loss wakes you to the deeper beauty of it, to the sanctity of it, you can’t get off your knees for a long time, you’re driven to your knees not by the weight of the loss but by gratitude for what preceded the loss. And the ache is always there, but one day not the emptiness, because to nurture the emptiness, to take solace in it, is to disrespect the gift of life.”

Dear Koontz, Odd Hours

It is about not taking solace in the emptiness that I feel with the loss of Frank in my life. His spirit is still with me – and expresses itself often. It often feels like he is just in another room. Meanwhile, I get to revel in the deep mystery and precious gift of our time together that preceded the awful loss. And I get to find new depth within myself I didn’t know was there. And liking what I find.

I am grateful for this anniversary of the heart.

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