While walking up the stairs tonight I was forcefully struck by what a precious gift life is, how good it all is and how much our love for each other is the source of the goodness. How precious and sweet! How thankful I am for it all and especially for your love. Sleep well.
Love into the next several lifetimes,
I have a thick manila folder in an upstairs desk stuffed with love letters from you. They begin in 1966 and continue on until your death in 2008. I also kept little notes you left on the kitchen counter or dining room table or tucked in my suitcase under clothing when I traveled. You weren’t afraid to end a note with a heart.
I’ve only read a few since you died. I want to put them in order and read them all, but it’s a tear-filled journey. Reading one today brings me to my knees. I’ve created a new life as we both trusted I would, but right now it feels fragile. Cochlear implant surgery brings better hearing but also fatigue, vulnerability, and renewed grief. Add to that the alarming political situation and climate change.
I want to lean into your body, not just my memory.
You wrote about our love in all your books and in many articles. You wouldn’t mind if I shared your words now, but can I face the surge of longing that comes with each letter? Your words bring me to my heart where you live, but also leave me with helpless yearning for the past.
What a gift it was to be married to an Italian romantic. No one taught you to love like that with words and hugs and sweet patience that grew stronger as you grew weaker.
Can it be eleven years since I pushed the button to start the cremation fire? Can it be eleven years since I held you in exhausted arms and gave all to letting you go, not calling you back, not asking for a sign or squeeze of the hand? You were on your way to distant shores where I could not go. There would be no more love letters, except this cache written for forty years, each new to me now.
My life includes quiet grief but I focus on living in the present tense. I plan to read your letters in manageable doses of love medicine so I don’t drown in turbulent waters.
You write of being together in other lifetimes. That thought began in the late 1960s when we took psychedelic drugs and imagined earlier lives, journeys, and searches for each other. What does it look like to be with you in another lifetime? Would we recognize each other?
I don’t focus there. Instead, I try to live well now. How do I give myself the acceptance you gave me? How do I remember to cut though exasperation or frustration to love the best in myself and others? Maybe your letters will bring me to the safe harbor of love, but they feel dangerous, like a heart bomb. I hold the folder at a distance for fear of what will erupt.
Had you been a poet, you could have written these words to me:
When you are angry it’s your gentle self
I love until that’s who you are.
In any case, I can’t love this anger any more
than I can warm my heart with ice.
I go on loving your smile
til it finds its way back to your face.
(Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection, James Crews (ed.), Green Writers Press, 2019, p. 32)
You gave me acceptance, patience for a storm to pass, and trust in my kindest self. We gave this to each other. As I read just one letter, I imagine you waiting for a smile to return to my face.
I highly recommend Healing the Divide, an anthology of poems edited by James Crews. The poems he included are balm for times like these or any time at all. Most in the collection are not specifically love poems, but this stood out for me. For other posts about the healing power of poetry, see Poems to Sooth a Grieving Heart. For a post about poems that guided us during the first and last years of our marriage, see Bookends of a Marriage.