It’s amazing how I still wake up, and I find myself thinking – he’s not here and he is not coming back. How can that be my waking thought? Yet it is. Then I accept it and reluctantly get on with the day, while the memories of his illness follow me. They pick on me like tormenting children, with knives.
This morning I am full of the experience when I had to visit nursing homes to decide where he would go. I disliked the patronizing faces, the smell of urine, the coldness of the walls, even though they were decorated with cheap fake paintings of flowers and boats lit by a sunset.
“And on Thursdays we play Bingo,” they would say. “In the summer, we sit on the patio.”
I hated it, every second. I should be choosing shirts, vacations, books for my husband, not a nursing home. He was fifty seven. Alzheimer’s disease had made him ageless, in a bad way. He had become Peter Pan’s grandfather. The boy, who couldn’t grow up, had grown up, and forgotten everything in five, very hard years.
I kept expecting and needing him, to race through the doors, pick me up and take me home again.
“Let’s not do this anymore,” he would say, beaming his healthy smile, and we could carry on with our messy, noisy, sometimes blissfully quiet and intimate marriage.
And now, as a widow, I read a magazine article about what I could choose next to do with my life and I’m bitter because I don’t want this without him. How can I get excited about anything? When such a large part of me doesn’t want to exist and another part of me doesn’t trust that it will be worth it. Some days I jump at my reflection in the mirror when I notice that I am not old – yet I feel a hundred and done. Simply done.
Then I remember that I am just one of a billion people who feel the same way.
The thoughts that trip us up are various. Mine happens to be the loss of my husband. Others might be the loss of a job, the loss of a pet, the gain of an illness, a debt, who knows. Life is so big and random. Just another planet spinning and held by nothing in a mid-air of stars and debris. A world full of voices that scream; “go do and achieve” while the sky yawns in tiredness and dumps rain onto our umbrellas. While others scream death, and feed on their neighbors fear through their bullets, bombs and blood. We are sick with our disrespect for humanity.
So what is love?
It is, despite absolutely everything; an energy that embraces your soul and whispers; “keep going.” It is the gaze of a child, the sweep of a paint brush, the touch of care, the joke that will always provoke a smile. Love is in sickness and in health. Love is in knowing I was married, and in the knowing that when I felt his heart finally stop, that our spirits would keep dancing. Together. Love is saying please and thank you and welcome. Love is saying goodbye as well as saying hello. Love is that light that you feel you alone can only see. Love is the only reason I am here. Love is all that I had to give and love is all that I continue to give.
And all of our stories will always connect. Love was always the guide. Love will always be the guide. And no matter what or how we arrive at that final breath, it will be the thing that greets us, because it is forgiveness, it is justice, it is merciful, it is abundant and it is the most handsome or prettiest face you will ever see. Because there has to be an answer that makes us all finally whisper, in one single language of a thousand voices, the simple word – Amen.