I needed to calm down. I needed faith in my stamina for a TEDx talk. My mind felt blurry, on the edge of dizzy. I had practiced the talk with a friend that day and delivered my ideas with conviction.
“Go to bed,” I told myself at 9 p.m. “If you get ready now, you’ll be asleep by 10.”
It takes time to wind down when I’m wound up, so I decided to create a little order. I poked through a pile on the kitchen counter and found a small photo of my first meditation teacher Anthony Damiani. It’s a copy of the photo I taped to Vic’s chest after a night of cardiac arrests. Nine months later, I placed that photo over Vic’s heart when he was dying. The photo went with his body to cremation. How could I be careless with my precious copy of this photo, the one I want near me when I die?
I opened my red wallet to the hidden pocket where I keep treasures. The photo belonged there. Contents of that pocket varied over time: quotes by Rumi and the Dalai Lama, photos of Anandamayi Ma and Marion Woodman, and the photo of Anthony. Deep in the pocket, I noticed a piece of yellow paper, neatly folded and tucked inside a plastic card holder. Was it a quote I wanted to remember? I unfolded the paper carefully and read:
You are the center of my life. Never doubt my love.
A message from beyond? An unexpected communication? Simple words written by my husband Vic in his clear Catholic school handwriting. The words I needed to hear tonight.
When did he write this note? Did he leave the note on the kitchen counter or dining room table when he was alive over six years ago? Did he write it when he was sick and we were worried? Did I tuck it away knowing there wouldn’t be more love notes?
I don’t know. So much was forgotten in those frantic days.
He knew I needed comfort. Was that because he was dying? Yes, I was the center of his life. When he was dying, I encircled him with love.
How does the mystery of love continue even after death? I always feel Vic’s presence in my heart, but his love note appeared like a gift from beyond. As I read the words again, tears rolled down my cheeks. Thank you for your love, Vic. Thank you, frazzled Elaine, for saving this note.
In a few days, I’ll stand on the TEDx Chemung River stage to share what I know about loss. Grief is an inevitable part of life. Grief has value. Grief is another face of love.
Vic and I supported each other when he was here, and he still supports me across the veil of time. No need to explain the note. No need to remember when or why he wrote it. I found it now. His love message on the yellow paper he often used. That’s enough.
I slid the note into its protective folder and tucked it into my wallet pocket. I won’t forget it’s there. Maybe I’ll tuck it into my bra for the talk, right over my heart.
I went on the TEDx ChemungRiver stage on Nov. 8, 2014 with my husband Vic’s note over my heart. The talk was a transitional moment for me and continues helping others, but the most astounding personal gift was finding this precious note the night before. Five years later, it’s still in my wallet.
“Good Grief! What I Learned from Loss” had over 200,000 viewers by April 2019. I wanted to share that milestone with you. To read more about getting ready for a TEDx talk/performance, read My Meetup with Little TED. For more articles about the gifts of love, I suggest Languages of Love.