Do You Hear What I Hear?

A friend has written a lightly fictionalized account of his loss of his wife to cancer and the aftermath in his life. Several scenes in the book recount his conversations with his dead wife, brief and infrequent but always occurring at pivotal times for him. I have always said that no matter how crazy other people think this sounds, it makes no sense to me that the love and energy of our most beloved ones just disappears upon their death. Therefore, it strikes me as completely logical that they would be attuned to those of us still on earth and find the occasional way to reach out—sort of like when a dear friend phones you unexpectedly just at the moment you are despairing over something.

When I went to my old yoga studio Tom was so clearly in the room with me from time to time that it was a little freaky. He seemed to always speak through music and it got so I had trouble concentrating on the teacher’s directions so busy was I listening to the lyrics of the background music in case there was a message there for me.

I didn’t feel Tom very much when I was with John. I’m not sure what that means, if anything. Knowing him, he was backing off to give me plenty of space to sort out the merits of this relationship on my own. But nearly as soon as it ended, when I was sad and missing Tom more deeply than ever, he came right back in small ways. My old yoga studio closed, and I have been a yoga orphan for a few months. Recently I settled on a combination of two places close to me and at each of them have felt his presence and heard the song “Ooo child, things are gonna get easier. Ooo child, things’ll get brighter” just when I was thinking that in fact things might get darker and stay that way!

Yesterday I was at the library picking up The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende as it is my book club’s January pick. I could not resist giving a quick scan to the non-fiction shelf as I sometimes find something extremely helpful and relevant there. Just as I had decided this was not one of those days, an author’s name caught my eye simply because it was vaguely familiar. It turned out to be a memoir by a woman who normally writes the sort of best-selling fiction I shun, all about finding the love of her life very late in the game and having him diagnosed with cancer just after their first anniversary. The book is their story. It is a fat book, so she clearly has a lot to say about a short relationship, something I can relate to completely as I believe I now have over 100 blog posts on more or less the same topic. Loving someone and losing them is always tragic. But loving someone it took you decades to find and then losing them after a few short years still strikes me as a special kind of cruel. I loved Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking about her husband’s death, but they had been together since their youth which is true of many grief books written by spouses. But Joyce Maynard may have walked in my actual moccasins and I can’t wait to dig in.

In the meantime, I will be looking for Tom everywhere—in the drawers I am determined to clean out, in the paintings he left, in the wooden heart he carved for me when we were just courting, in the pictures I cherish. And I will be acting on the two goals I have for the new year—get more comfortable, more content, with solitude and consider looking once again for a life partner with whom to spend my remaining years. I have already drafted the online equivalent of a personal ad and will let my art director wannabe daughter shoot a photo she approves of. If I find someone I like and who likes me that will be great. If I don’t that will be ok too as I just made a list of over 20 ways in which God has blessed my life and that’s enough!

If something to do, someone to love and something to look forward to are the formula for a happy life, I am already in good shape. I have teaching, pickleball and mahjong, yoga and volunteering as things to do, my daughters and siblings and friends to love and a trip to Florida in February to look forward to in the near term and jaunts to Rome with Franny and possibly England with a friend to see another friend in the 2019-20 time frame. And of course, Alyssa’s college selection process and getting her settled wherever she decides to go.

Life is rich and sweet and good. I would still like to hold hands with someone I love in front of the fire, but I now understand clearly that it can’t be just anyone. For being with the wrong someone is far lonelier than being on one’s own. And as a born entertainer I can always entertain myself—with a song, a piano piece or a bit of silliness. I constantly crack myself up even as my children groan and roll their eyes!

And someplace in heaven Tom is getting a kick out of watching me live and also sending his love and support, which I am so grateful I can feel. Keep the music coming, honey. I’ll sing along in the car.

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