What you leave behind is not what
is engraved in stone monuments, but
what is woven into the lives of others.
. . . listening to Train’s “Hey Soul Sister” . . .
My fear right now is that I am leaving behind Laureen. She is becoming a moment, frozen in time, and I am moving away from that moment. And as much as I keep craning my head to look back at what we had, the future seems to be propelling me forward, and away, from her. She is becoming an apparition, a “did that really happen to me?” abstraction.
I cry at the realization of this, and feel a deep ache in my heart. I am the Universe, devoid of stars.
Some days are better than others.
I exchanged emails with a dear friend of mine (of ours), today. I wanted to check up on her (them) and make sure they were doing okay with all the snow we have received. We chatted a bit and talked about tarot cards (a passion of Laureen’s). She made an interesting comment in her message back to me . . .
I had forgotten you and Laureen were engaged for five years …I do know she was super happy to be married to you and I recall our conversation when I asked her if she felt different now that she was married to you . She had said yes that being married really made a difference to her [and] how she felt; she was really happy and wished now that she could have had a family. I was so happy to hear her say this as I knew her change in wanting a family was huge. She probably already told you this but thought I would share it with you in case she did not.
Yes, today, Valentine’s Day, is the fifth anniversary of our engagement. And no, Laureen did not tell me that in her happiness she could now imagine having had a family together. That one comment immediately opened the floodgates. When I see something, and I know that it is important, it is almost an uncontrollable reflex that I simply cannot contain my emotion and it pours forth.
There was so much in that one, small acknowledgement. Laureen had struggled so hard for her entire life with feelings of lack of self-worth and lack of self-love. Having been emotionally abused for a good portion of her life, she simply lost the ability to trust people because in the end, they always found a way to take her down. In that respect, to say that our relationship had its challenges would be an understatement. She was like a wild horse that had suffered much abuse on top of that. But she also had a core strength that had never been extinguished.
My answer to all of that – the only thing that I could give to her – was my unconditional and unwavering love (and maybe just a little bit of patience . . . well, a lot of patience). But hey, I had my issues too. It took many, many years for us to come to a place of complete trust. But for all of our internal demons, we never, ever gave up on each other because we knew that the love we felt for each other was real. Whenever we approached something that seemed insurmountable, we always brought it back to the center – of what was real for us – and what was real was the way that we felt for each other.
It was eight years of very hard emotional work for both of us before I could see that she was at a place where she could make a commitment to getting married someday. And so I had asked her, and she had said yes. And then we sat with that for 2-1/2 more years, still doing our healing work.
Finally, in the Fall of 2012, Laureen said to me one day, “We need to get married.” I was always easy so I just said, “Ok”. It had been my plan all along anyhow so this wasn’t a hard decision for me to make. Looking back now, I would have to say that she had a premonition because it was only three months later that we learned she had cancer. We were married six days after getting the news.
And it did feel different. But what astonishes me about my friend’s message is that Laureen had sufficiently healed below the surface to even contemplate what our life might have been like had we actually had our own family. Like, children – wow, it’s a mind-blowing concept for me. And that is because I have been somewhat ambivalent to the concept of children, but to imagine a timeline in which Laureen and I had actually met earlier in our lives, and we’d been formed a little differently (less emotional traumas to deal with for both of us), and that we might have had a family. If I could imagine a reality in which I had children, that would be the reality I would want.
It is not like this has been lost on me in the past. I am a dreamer. I have often pondered the things we missed simply because Laureen and I did not find each other sooner in this lifetime. I can so imagine the children that Laureen and I would have had. Beautiful children all – creative and intelligent and loving, and loved. With the depth of love that Laureen and I felt and expressed for each other, how could our children have been anything less? And would having had children made the loss of Laureen just a tiny bit easier? An unanswerable question. I do wonder if there exists, in heaven, the children that we might have had. Do possibilities exist? Perhaps in some alternate universe or timeline?
It is a gift that my friend shared with me today. It is also a message from Laureen. John – this is how much I loved you – that I could envision our having had a family together. It speaks of how deeply she was healed emotionally in the last months of her life. I continually go back to one particular moment when her cousin gave Laureen a special gift for our last Christmas together. It was a simple necklace with such a huge, huge message. The little pendant on the necklace had a word stamped on it: Loved
I knew, in that very instant when I saw the necklace, and the word “Loved”, that it was the final healing moment for Laureen. That last puzzle piece slid into place and she was complete. She had healed herself and had assembled around her the people that truly loved her. People that she could trust. She had finally found her family. And she was “Loved”! Such a huge, huge moment in our lives.
And so, now, she has left behind to me the gift of these words. Of her most closely held dreams. And sometimes they come to me from others, as this one did. That in her dreams she could imagine having a family with me. I cannot express how deeply inward that goes. It reminds me that she was more than just an apparition, or a moment. And it gives me hope that maybe the next time around, maybe we can just have a quiet life together, and have our family.