Marcus died two years ago Friday (on August 19). I remember the day as if it were yesterday. I remember the morning walk with my two little terriers in the searing heat of that Terlingua, Texas desert sun. I remember having some strange heart palpitations and returning to my little miner's cabin to lie down. I remember The Phone Call, first ignoring the ringing phone, then listening to the voice mail and learning it wasn't Marcus who had called; it was the medical examiner. I remember the events of the day unfolding, the subsequent phone calls to family, friends, airlines, funeral homes. But what I remember most is the tears. Not just a few crocodile tears streaming down my cheeks, but a gushing waterfall of sobbing, screaming, wailing. I cried so hard I was choking. I emitted frightening guttural sounds I didn't know I was capable of making. I remember lying on the floor in front of the fan, awake that entire first night, feeling a pain so deep and torturous I wanted to rip the skin off my body to get it out.
Months later, after moving to Portland, I remember sitting in the first and only grief support group session I attended listening to other widows talk of their losses, and how after two years they were still grieving. Two years?! I did not want that to be me! At that point I didn't think I would even be able to stay alive two more years. Really.
Obviously, I survived. I got private grief counseling, I took some time to hibernate, and then I got busy -- making pie. The grief has never gone away, but with time -- all 24 months of it – the acuteness of it has eased. Two years. What a dark, dark period of my life.
But it is hard to write about darkness when there is a bright, blinding light shining in your eyes -- light that's like having been sealed in a blackened room for two years and suddenly the window shade flies open letting intense rays of sun rush in. The sensation of light I'm talking about is this: On the two-year anniversary of Marcus' death I am not curled up in the fetal position reliving the events of that horrendous life-changing day. Instead, I am driving to the airport to pick up a new friend. A man. A new love.
When he – let’s call him H – when H told me he was arriving on the 19th I didn’t mention the significance of the date to him. I didn’t reveal how symbolic it was to be making room for someone new on a day that represents the greatest loss I have ever known. But it begs the question: Is this timing just a coincidence? No, I don’t think so. I think it's Marcus's doing.
One of the things that has helped me most in dealing with my grief is talking to Marcus. I talk to him daily, mostly at night when I am walking my dogs under the star-filled heavenly Iowa sky. He doesn’t talk back, but that doesn’t stop me. I tell him I miss him. I ask him how he is. I tell him how I am. And, sometimes, I ask him for his help. Go ahead, roll your eyes and think that's all "woo-woo," but I swear he is tending to my needs. I asked for his help in January when I started writing my book. Seeing as I have never written so fast and so prolifically in my entire life I am convinced he was here pushing my fingers on the keyboard. Then, a few weeks ago, after my short-lived and exhausting attempt at dating dampened my spirits, I asked him for help again. “I am still in my forties. I am still alive. I still want – still need – physical contact. Can’t you just send me someone who will hold me in his arms?”
Enter H. A gift sent from the “Other Side.” How else to explain where this promise of new love came from? H is the definition of a gentleman. He is elegant and handsome, kind and generous, funny, caring and supremely smart. And he is a damn good hugger. When he wraps his manly arms around me I feel safe again, anchored, better. Much, much better.
Maybe, going forward, August 19 will represent an auspicious day instead of an ominous one. All I know is that I’m feeling some of those strange (but good) heart palpitations as H’s flight arrival time approaches. And that for the first time in two years my tears have stopped long enough to see more than just a passing glimmer of light. I'm seeing so much light, in fact, I may have to seek a little darkness to balance out the new-found brightness. At a point when I might have been needing to invest in more Kleenex, instead I'm thinking a new pair of sunglasses will do.
(Thank you, Marcus. You may be gone, but you are most definitely not forgotten -- and still very much loved!)