I just completed Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, focused on the year following the death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne on December 30, 2003. Framed within the 227 pages are memories of their 40-year-marriage, of her professional and family life within the context of John. She is an excellent and enviable wordsmith. She writes to make sense of John's sudden passing (one evening while sitting at their dining table) and to make sense out of the nonsensical. "Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant," she writes.
The art accompanying this post is from a glass fusion class I took last winter, the first winter without the steady side-by-side warmth of my husband. His passing changed life in an instant, even though we had months to prepare for the inevitability. I didn't much like what I created in that glass fusion class, but then I didn't much like anything about my life during those cold winter months. What I have come to appreciate most about the piece now, though, is how the light shines through and brings a brightness to the colors and shapes.
But back to Joan's magical thinking, these past months have included hours and even days of just that, including thoughts this is all temporary. He'll be home soon. That red jeep in the drive. Wait till I share this with Clem. Yes! So proud of your books! And your way of honoring all around you. The tapestry we wove from love, kids, cats, condos, too many squirrels, too small a kitchen, too many walnut trees, all these Redbuds and all those vacations.
But then an emotional banana peel lands on the path, and I pause, slip a bit, acknowledge the truth that his physical self is gone. All the book knowledge, all the music, all the positive memories (and not-so-positive during his last hours), all the talking out loud to God and whoever else is listening, pales. And I am left with just the rawness of loss. His prolonged absence. His dancing across the dining room with his walker. His "Good Morning, Sunshine." Even during his last weeks.
Then here comes the holy? It is after one of those days of sitting in a chair wrapped in a blanket feeling the wounds of grief that I begin to feel the balance again. Almost as if the pain of loss is part of achieving balance. Gotta' feel it to heal it?
It all seems a part of a long-term marriage, the dash between the beginning and the end. A full circle of sorts. A look at the best and the worst life has to offer. Falling in love then somewhere during the dash part, between the birth of something and the death of the same, a deep appreciation for it all. Always a double-sided coin. The holy comes fraught with holes and slippery places.
But as the year of firsts draws to a close, I look back and see how often people showed up, love showed up, kindness reared its head and I see how critical it is to trust in the process of change. I hear Father Richard Rohr referring to our need to "allow our wounds to be our teachers." Or is that Thich Nhat Hanh? Suffice it to say if that is one of the great spiritual truths, whoever the author, then I'm growing like a little wild spiritual weed.
Emotional banana peels notwithstanding, I assume, as long as I continue to let the light of love and experience and wisdom, all the fascinating ways the Divine has shown up in all these past years, that all will eventually we well. Again. Even without the red jeep in the drive. Or the Friday night flowers.