Friday, May 18, 2012
Bookends and New Friends
“Oh, hey! Did I tell you that our interior decorator finally died of lung cancer?”
The off-hand declarative struck my heart ice cold.
“Was she married?” I asked.
“Yes, I think so” came the reply - innocent because he was oblivious.
The enormity of the moment was sweetly coated with blessed ignorance. “Of course she died – she had cancer. It couldn’t have been a surprise. And sure she had a husband.” (None of these things were actually said, but these are the things that the innocent say. Heck, these are the things I said before I was less… innocent.)
“Can you connect me with her husband?”
Right now, somewhere in Austin, there’s a man sitting by himself who has no idea how he’s going to live another day without the sweet touch of his wife. All-too-fresh and tender last-moments coat the inside of his eyelids. Somewhere in Austin, he’s wandering around a suddenly quiet house, picking up the shoes she last wore, smelling them and then putting them down; picking up the glass she last drank from; looking at her toothbrush, hat and socks she was wearing just days ago and wondering what the hell just happened. Somewhere in Austin, there’s a man drowning and Austin is oblivious.
Saturday I’m attending (yet another) wedding but this one is very special. One of Maggie’s closest girlfriends (and for the last three years, one of mine) is getting married. He’s a nice guy and they are going to have a wonderful, long life together. Maggie never met him but I’m positive she would approve. Walking down that isle, she’ll wear not only a fancy white dress and big grin but also the ring that Maggie wore every day after our wedding day as her “something borrowed.” It’s the closest thing she’ll have to Maggie’s blessing. I’m truly happy for her. That night, the whole world will celebrate the joining of these two lives.
So there it is – Saturday night, one couple is committing to walk forever together while one man can’t grasp why his wife is never, ever coming home.
We, the ones who read with this blog, are truly gifted because of our shared experience and loss. We know all too well what the bookends of a relationship look like. In contrast, most people only know what it looks like when the books fall chaotically off the shelf. Our experience is our gift and our curse. Experience has made us rich but at an unbelievable price.
Riches are worth nothing if they are stuck in a mattress (or in my case, on top of a mattress - unshaved, unshowered and crying.) We’ve all had this gift shoved down our throat. But it takes another kindred soul to point us the way and explain that it’s going to be ok; that this is a gift; and that we will survive. Camp Widow 2011 did that for me. Now I feel like it’s my job to make sure that other people see the gift they’ve been given underneath all the rubble, starting with a big ol’ dose of you-aren’t-alone.
Mr. Sleepless In Austin, I’m coming for you. I never wanted to meet you and I wish you and I had nothing in common, but that’s not where we are right now. Regardless, we have a lot to talk about, you and me. See you soon.