Friday, February 13, 2015

Some thoughts on love, on the power of words and on community

Oh, there is so much spinning in my head this week, so much I want to tell you. I don't want this post to be unreadably long, so I'm trying to find coherence amongst several time-sensitive ideas. Please be patient.

Last weekend I attended an event called Camp Widow, sponsored by the Soaring Spirits Foundation. This gathering of widowed people is inclusive of anyone who has lost their love - male or female or other, married or not, straight, LGBT, etc. I had no idea what to expect. Frankly, I was scared but felt in my gut that going would be a good thing.

My gut was right, though it was a challenging experience. Owning the word "widow" is a terrible and powerful thing. I've written about the word before, twice in fact, but this weekend was the first time I called myself a widow out loud. I am Kevin's widow. A blasphemy. The first time I spoke it I began sobbing in a stranger's arms. And yet it was so good to be with others who had their own version of this loss, their own pains as great and common and private. Every conversation had a shortcut, none of us needed to explain, "I'm sorry, I'm a little weepy today, my husband died recently." It was completely unnecessary. There was no apology for tears, for confusion, for any of the things that come with loss.

I found community. We all had something huge in common, so we all began from a place of kindness and mutual care. It was powerful. It was, in many ways, the way I wish the world was all the time though I would never wish this loss in anyone. I am glad I went. I am glad to know that I am not alone, no matter how alone I may feel. That my experience of loss is merely another part of being human.

Throughout the whole weekend I found myself thinking about love. We all were there because we still loved someone who was not in this world. I found I loved everyone I met there from the instant we said hello. It was so easy. There was no reason not to love them. I try to live this way in the day-to-day but often fail. In this context there was no question that love was present.

Which brings me to Valentine's Day, tomorrow. For 15 years Kevin and I didn't make a big deal out of it. We'd give each other cards, maybe go out to dinner or not. We had no doubt of our love for one another so there was no reason to turn one day a year into the day for a declaration of love. The love was present.

Last year he started chemo on Valentine's Day. Last year I held his hand as chemicals dripped into his body that we hoped might slow the cancer. He gave me a card that he barely had the strength to sign, but it is signed and it sits on my mantel. Tomorrow I will read it again. The love was so present in that hospital room that it turned into hope.

This year I walk through stores and avoid the aisles decked out in red. This year I have not purchased any cards for him. I will write him a love letter as I do every day. I am so glad Valentine's Day wasn't a big deal for us because it's hard enough as it is. But the love is still present. It lives in my heart and my skin and my words.

I am terribly sad, but I keep reminding myself of this: Our love story still is a thing of wonder. Our love story is so much more than his illness and death. It is laughter and problem-solving and sex and sleep and frustration and work and joy and washing dishes together and all of the mundane details that make up a life. Our life. Our love story did not end with his death because I love him still. I believe that somewhere he is still loving me and his kids. Energy can be neither created nor destroyed; so it is with love. It is present.

We promised to love each other until death do us part, and we have. Tomorrow I will no doubt cry. I will find reason to laugh and smile and remember him, remember us, with great tenderness. I will feel my heart, broken and beating, but still here. I will call myself his widow with pride and great love because I have earned this. I loved and love and will love.

Happy Valentine's Day. You are in my heart.

(46 weeks. Time is inexorable but the love wins.)

(c)2015 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

1 comment:

  1. Dear Laura, your generosity of spirit, your warm and exquisite heart, and your profound communication skills inspire me to share this quote“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
    Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (Death: The Final Stage of Growth, 1975)

    Thank you,

    Chris Jennings


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