|Stan, age 10, circa 1960|
I saw a grief post, recently, that resonated with me. It said "I wish I could turn back the clock: I'd find you sooner and love you longer."
When I read about other widows or widowers who lived with their spouses for decades, before they died, I feel sad for them. I think it must be so difficult to lose a partner with whom one has shared an entire lifetime. I think it must be very hard to learn how to be on one's own, after growing together, all those years. I feel for them.
But I must admit that underneath it all, there is a bit of envy, too. I met Stan in 2011, and he died three and a half years later. Barely enough time to settle in. They got to share young adulthood with one another, become parents, together, nurture each other through careers and middle age and perhaps even becoming grandparents. I had none of that with Stan. I only know the many parts of his life through the stories he told me, and through the memories his friends and family share with me, now that he is gone.
Stan led a colourful, varied life, with many incarnations. He never stopped changing and growing. There were people from all aspects of his life, at his funeral, from those who worked for him in the field of housing, to friends and neighbours who respected his volunteering in Glossop, to the close circle of friends that grew around bringing world music to our village, to the Buddhists who had become so close to him in recent years.
Most of those incarnations were lived before we met.
I wish I had known young Stanley, the boy, above, who excelled in scouts and had a paper route, who loved his four sisters, who cried when the snow melted into the ground. I wish I had met him when he was a teenager, riding his bicycle through the city of Manchester, picking up odd jobs, and dating pretty girls.
I wish I had known the Stan who was a young parent, taking his kids on holiday, traipsing up and down the hills of Derbyshire and the mountains in Wales, driving them down secret roads, entertaining them with his silly songs.
Or Stan, the gardener, who learned the names of all the flowers and shrubs in England, and how to nourish them, and make them grow.
Or the Stan who found reggae music, and fell in love with it, befriending the Jamaican community in their all night shebeens.
I wish I had known the fiery advocate who was a leader in the trade union movement, who organised and led a three week strike. I would have marched with him on the front lines, had I known him, then.
I used to tell him, often, that I wished we had met sooner, but he was not one to wish for things to be different than they were. He'd tell me that he was just so happy that we had found each other, when we did. He said that meeting me made him a lucky man.
I guess the Stan I knew was a combination of all those other Stans. He still remembered the names of all the flowers and shrubs. He taught me about the trade union movement, and the struggles of the working class. He shared his reggae and world music collection with me. He still drove down tiny 'secret' roads when his kids came to visit, and he still sang his silly songs.
I would have loved to witness the man he was becoming. He was delving deeper into the dharma and becoming more devoted to the Buddhist path. He had just begun to work as a part of the 'heart' team at the centre, and he was excited to use his management skills to help the centre grow. He was improving his diet, looking after himself, letting go of past indulgences, changing his life, yet again.
I like to think I had a little to do with his newfound transformation. I like to think that my love and support helped him to grow and blossom into the man he wanted to be.
I know that his love helped me grow. He helped me open to others. He helped me learn to be comfortable in my own skin. He taught me to treat myself with a gentle touch.
Meeting him made me a lucky woman.
I didn't get to share decades with my husband. I didn't get to know him in his youth, or grow with him through young adulthood and middle age. We didn't get to grow old together. But we shared a lifetime in our few short years.