“She’s kept her love for him as alive as the summer they first met. In order to do this, she’s turned life away.”
“To paint a leaf, you have to sacrifice the whole landscape. It might seem like you’re limiting yourself at first, but after a while you realize that having a quarter-of-an-inch of something you have a better chance of holding on to a certain feeling of the universe than if you pretended to be doing the whole sky.”
from “The History of Love” by Nicole Krauss
I’ve been thinking about these sentences since I read them. It’s not that I think I have or will turn “life away.” Having a child you love really makes it impossible to do so. But I can’t let go of the purity of the summer we met, or the first year of dating, or the proposal, or engagement year- or any of the ordinary days in between. If you ask me, being in love is underrated- not the opposite. It was different from the movie romances, but better. It is hard to let that go, and it is worth protecting.
I also recently finished a book called “Heaven is Here,” about a Mormon woman, Stephanie Nielson, mother of four (now five) who was in a terrible plane crash with her husband and burned over 80% of her body. She lived, and went through the painful recovery process and has been an inspiration to many. After I read the book, I googled her blog and found a video of her through google showing another mom around her home and describing some of the challenges she has now doing some of the simple things for her children, that other mothers take for granted. At one point, she points at a family photo taken before the accident, and the other mom comments on how beautiful she was before she suffered the burns that transformed her face. Stephanie says, looking at the photo, and I paraphrase, “That was beautiful, and this is beautiful too…” pointing to her current life.
I think this is a way of looking at any kind of loss that I’ve been trying to grasp onto myself. If I don’t keep looking at what I’ve lost, then what I have still looks beautiful. It requires holding them kind of separately and taking them each for what they’re worth- then and now. It’s when I compare us to others, or when I remember how it felt to have someone help carry up the grocery bags, or tease me, or brush their teeth beside me, or admire my daughter with me, or say softly “good night to you,” as I turn out the light- that I feel how empty and full of loss “this” is.
But then Stephanie continues while they look at the photo and she comments, “I had all of this in my life…and I still have all of this in my life,” pointing to all of the members of her family.
And I don’t. And I won’t. And that makes saying, “This is beautiful too…” a lot harder.
Today was the day that I buried you.
Tomorrow would have been our eight year wedding anniversary- 13 years of being together.
I’ll be thinking about the day you proposed to me and that little note that you taped with scotch tape to the back of the ring box. How it represented so well the child-like quality of our friendship and love.
I’ll be thinking about the anniversary jar sitting on my dresser that I created a few years back to put loose change in and then use that money on our anniversary to go out to eat dinner- you joked that we could probably get a cup of coffee…
and of course I’ll be thinking about the magic of that day- waking up in the morning in my childhood room, going to pick up the orchids for my hair, forgetting my veil, waiting outside the sanctuary- and walking up to you- even with the wrong notes my friend played in the wedding march on the piano- a moment I had dreamed about for five long years of dating. I’ll be thinking of how happy we were as we checked into the W in NYC as husband and wife that night before heading down to Mexico…and the little note you wrote on the W hotel stationary with the little cut out “W”:
I share your pain with you this evening. I am thinking about Dan.. about how, still, if I had 1 wish to bring anyone back, it would Dan – for you.
I ache for you to stop aching. I wish there was a way he could give us a sign that he's here – watching you, watching Audrey.
Call me crazy but sometimes I think that the day you go to Heaven, it will be the most beautiful reunion. And when you see each other, and you hug, you'll melt into 1 "thing" — and exist within each other. Maybe that's a silly "child-like" fantasy… but one that makes me happy.
I'm here if you ever need a friend.
I have that same response when someone who has endured something massive can point to their all still surviving family members and say "I still have this."