Friday, February 12, 2016

Valentine's Day with the dead and the living

As you are reading this I am on vacation, the first I have taken since 2009 when Kevin and I went to Jamaica to celebrate our 11th anniversary. I'm in New Orleans, with my new love, honoring and celebrating what was, what is and what will be.

I have a vial of Kevin's ashes with me and a valentine for him. I intend to leave them both here, though I'm not yet sure where. Maybe I'll burn the valentine and scatter all the ashes in the Mississippi. Maybe I'll tuck it into a corner somewhere on Bourbon Street, from where Kevin once called to tell me what he was seeing because he so wanted to share it with me. Maybe I'll fold it into a paper airplane and let the wind take it all away. I don't know. I just know it matters to me that I remind myself and the universe of how much I still love him, even as I love someone new. My new love understands this need and will help me however he can. He is a remarkable man. I have a valentine for him, too, just as heartfelt though very different.

I've never been a big fan of Valentine's Day. I'd like to think the loves I have experienced are worth celebrating every day, regardless of the calendar date. Kevin and I never made a big deal about it, though we sometimes would take Brother Blue and Ruth out for dinner. My new love and I have agreed that it's not that big a deal for either of us. I'll give him a little something. I expect he'll do the same, though if he doesn't, that's okay. What matters is that we're together. What matters is that my new love and I celebrate each other every day; Kevin is a part of this as he is a part of me.

Two years ago on Valentine's Day Kevin was in the hospital. He asked a friend to go to the gift shop and find a card he could give to me. She brought him two, one kind of playful, the other as sappy and romantic as you can imagine. Kevin wasn't a sappy man, but he picked the card with the words he always felt but rarely said. The words that celebrated me as his friend, his lover, his wife. The words that celebrated us. He signed it with only his name because holding a pen was hard. It's the last item he gave me and I treasure it beyond words. That Valentine's Day stands out in my memory in shimmering silver, a precious reminder of the depth between us. It was also the day he began chemo and, for a little while at least, we still had hope.

I think that's what Valentine's Day is about, for me anyway. It's about hope. It's about believing that love is worth celebrating every day and that love continues even when it's hard, especially when it's hard. I still love Kevin. I always will. I love my new partner and I hope I will always love him, too.

When I hold Kevin's ash in my hand on Sunday, my lovers by my side, one alive and one gone, when I let the wind or water take it, I am not letting go of all that was between us, I am not discarding or discounting it for the new. The new wouldn't exist without the old. I am instead, letting his physical matter spread through the world and carry his spirit further. I am reminding myself that his body may be gone but the love between us remains and grows, as the ash sparkles in the breeze. The love he and I shared is now part of me, part of my new love, part of my life as it always will be. I am honoring and celebrating all that was, all that is, and all that is yet to be.

(c)2016 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

1 comment:

  1. Laura, thank you. I see this post as courageous. I admit I was taken back for a moment, but I too celebrate in your new life. I wish you happiness and joy. Both are derivatives that submerge while walking through pain to gain authenticity. I heart you.


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