|Tribute Tile Wall from Camp Widow West 2011|
The thing is these calendars belonged to the late husband of one of our board members. As I turned the pages and viewed Carl's writing I was struck by the proof of his existence...staring at me from small boxes marked with words written by his hand.
I never met Carl, but I feel I know him. I have heard his voice only once (on a cassette tape actually), and when I listened, somehow the timbre sounded familiar to my ears. Carl is someone I can pick out in a photo; I can tell you that he was meticulous and funny and fiercely loyal. I know that he helped his step-kids avoid their mother's wrath when they found themselves in hot water. He loved to give jewelry as a gift...I have seen the evidence! Carl was respected by his peers, valued by his employers, and kind to his family. When his daughter was diagnosed with cancer, he tried desperately to bargain with God to let him trade places with her so that she and her young family would not be at risk of losing each other through death. Personal details, daily habits, food and wine preferences, and favorite travel destinations: all this I know about a man I never met, which I find odd and amazing at the same time, because my friend Barbara shared her love with me.
As I stared down at the maroon colored book in my hand today, I realized that not only do I "know" Carl, but I know so many other men and women whose hands I have never grasped in my own. You see, as a widowed community we share our late spouses with each other through stories, photos, tears, and laughter. When you leave a comment here, or send a message to us at SSLF, we meet your loved one for the first time through your words. Then every story you share there after, adds to the total picture we have of the person with whom you shared your life. Slowly but surely people we never had the privilege of sharing a meal with become dear to us, known to us.
In this beautiful way, our loved ones live on. Not just in our hearts, or even in the hearts of those who knew them in life, but in the friendships we share as widowed people trying to make our way without the people we miss and love so much.
Thanks Barb for sharing Carl with me. And thanks to each and every one of you who share your loved ones with us. Our community includes not only you and me, but all the people we love who have changed our collective lives. What a gift.