I walk to my husband Vic’s cairn in the forest to honor his life and death. Along the way, I peek in the nesting boxes to see if the bluebird eggs have hatched. I pick lupines near the trail and remember how the fields bloomed with purple joy the day he died. I lay flowers on the gravestone, read a love poem, and sit in silence. Then I tell the Vic who dwells in my heart how grateful I am for his love.
Although I think of him year round and the sharpest grief pain has softened, he still shows up as a helper in dreams or an empathetic listener in inner dialogue.
“I don’t know what will happen to me, but I know I’ll always love you,” he said a few weeks before he died. “I don’t know what happens after death, but if I can help you across when it’s your turn to die, I’ll be there.”
I can’t ask for more than that.
When people ask if I feel him close to me, the actual man Vic, I say, “I feel his presence in my memory and heart. I feel his presence on the land as I watch trees he planted grow and watch the descendants of the bluebirds we lured here with carefully placed nesting boxes. A mysterious sense of him walks beside me every day.”
I don’t need to know more.
During this covid-19 time, I wish I were quarantined with Vic. I wish I could tell him my grownup and girlish fears. I want him to dry my tears with his shirt sleeve.
Years after his last breath, I cherish the memory of him, even when remembering hurts. Tears flow in gratitude and sorrow.
Aren’t we all grieving now? Don’t we all wish we could lean into someone, be held and heard? Don’t we all need this poem?
‘Tis a fearful thing
to love what death can touch.
A fearful thing
to love, to hope, to dream, to be ~
And oh, to lose.
A thing for fools, this,
And a holy thing,
a holy thing to love.
For your life has lived in me,
your laugh once lifted me,
your word was gift to me.
To remember this brings painful joy.
‘Tis a human thing, love, a holy thing,
To love what death has touched.
‘Tis A Fearful Thing” by Yehuda HaLevi
Physician & Philosopher (1075-1141)
I wrote this piece before Vic’s death date on June 3. He’s on my mind as I consider how I will honor him. Grief is strong this year without hugs and deep conversations with friends. Life feels on hold, and the grief of the world is on my mind. Are you finding past or present grief and other life struggles more overwhelming during this time? How are you handling it?
I wrote about an early grief ritual to honor Vic in Creating A Grief Ritual: Love, Loss, and Continuing Bonds. It’s been a template for every ritual since. I wrote Disco Balls and Candles: A Community Grief Ritual about a unique community ritual I led in San Francisco.