REMEMBER THAT FIRST TIME YOU FELL IN LOVE?

Remember that very first time you fell in love?  I mean real love. The type that you picture yourself living forever?  The kind of love that is all consuming in thought?

The world was better.  The sun shined brighter, the birds sang sweeter, food tasted better when you managed to get past the butterflies in your stomach and actually eat something; children laughed and everything looked sharp, shiny, neat and clean.

Things look sharp and shiny to me now. But not necessarily neat and clean.  As I was driving to work the other day I realized that the passing storm had cleaned everything.  Scrubbed the streets, the buildings, everything.  The sun was shining and everything was bright.  Stark though, the edges of the buildings, the sharpness of the colors of things reminded me of being in love for the first time—in fact the only time.  But now, for me it wasn’t love that focused the lens for me.  No it was death.  The love we shared has ended.  Or changed anyway.  “…until death do us part.”  Well death has certainly parted Mike from me.Mike’s death has caused a lot of change to occur in my life.  One of those changes is seeing the world in a different way.  Seeing people in a different way.  Approaching life in a different way.

For many months I sat on the sidelines of life.  Watching it go by.  Not participating in it and not caring that I was sitting on the fringe.  That’s where I preferred to sit.  It was surreal in many ways, almost as though I was watching a movie with a cast of characters that I found dull and uninspiring.  My mind would wander, as it tends to do when it’s not engaged in anything interesting enough to holds its attention.

But it would wander to places that were dark.  Sad.  Lonely.  My mind would remember, against my will, all those times Mike and I argued over silly unimportant things.  All things were silly and unimportant in retrospect.  I would remember the day of diagnosis as though it has been forever burned into my memory.  I remembered some grueling days that Mike suffered from pancreatic cancer while I could do nothing for him, but sit by and witness the devastation going on in his body.

Life does not allow us to take a break from it long.  No, there’s the tedium of life that we all have to deal with.  Mortgage payments, insurance, bills, etc.  So, at my friend Alina’s kind, compassionate and overly patient urging, her help, whether she pulled, pushed, dragged or just waited on or for me, I again joined the human race; not because I wanted to and not because Mike would have wanted me to either, after all he was gone and not entitled to an opinion of how I was living my life–but because I had to.  But that wasn’t enough to erase the memories.

No, that brought a whole new set of “things” which I had not had to deal with since Mike died.  The habit of calling him when I left the house to go to work or calling him when I left work to ask him what he wanted for dinner; as well as to give him an estimated time of my arrival at home.

You see Mike didn’t like being in the house when I wasn’t there so he’d time his arrival home with mine.  But Mike wasn’t around anymore for me to call.  Such a habit performed almost by rote on a day-to-day basis suddenly became a desire.  It wasn’t a habit that I was glad to be done with either like quitting smoking.  No this was a habit that while Mike was alive annoyed me at times…it was by his request I called him, not my desire to call him.

But oh how I wished I could call him one more time; because I wanted to, because I needed to.  I hated my cell phone then for a few weeks.  The one heavy useless brick of a reminder of what was forever gone.

So many times I have remembered Mike being upset, crying even after he was diagnosed.  But he wasn’t crying for himself.  He was crying for me.  One of the most heart wrenching things he ever said to me was when he was sick.  “I feel as though I’m letting you down.” He lamented.  Letting me down?  I told him he was nuts, crazy don’t even think such a thing.  I marvel even today at Mike—that statement of his. What about the doctors, the medical profession, the insurance letting Mike down?  That wasn’t his concern.  It is what it is he would have said.

We’ve all heard that saying, “better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all.”  And I think about that saying now.  I understand it better now than ever before. Once upon a time I would have retorted to that saying, how can that be?

If you’ve never had something, how can you possibly miss it?  But I was an idiot when I was younger.  Maybe I still am.  But I understand that statement today.  It is by far better to have loved than not.  I know I am a better person for having had Mike in my life.

For his love, which was huge, unconditional, selfless and forgiving.  Always.

I wonder what I ever did to deserve such a love such as Mike’s.  I also wonder how he learned to love the way he did, especially knowing his family the way I do.  What taught him the lessons that he seemed to have learned so young: forgive people their weaknesses, they are just people; laugh a lot, enjoy life; eat a great meal with good friends; take it easy, chill out, relax.

Harsh words do hurt.

How did he know that those were the things that were really important in life?  That I know it all now is bittersweet in many ways.  These are good lessons to learn.  But why did I learn them so late?  Better late than never I suppose.

But what do I do with my new found knowledge of how to live life?  Who do I apply it to now that Mike is gone?  Oh to be sure there are people in my life who are deserving of my application of these lessons, My children come immediately to mind.

I lament that Mike isn’t here anymore yet he was most deserving.

So today, the official one-year mark since his funeral I look around in my life. I have been told that time eases all wounds. But Mike’s death didn’t just wound me no it broke me.  Shattered me.  Something nothing or anyone has ever done to me before, and not for lack of their trying either.  There isn’t a superglue out there to put all the pieces back again as strong and sturdy as they were when Mike was alive.

I find myself wondering about this love thing. Oh I know God loves me, better than Mike ever could. I know that.  But honestly that doesn’t really help in filling up the gaping wound of life.  It really doesn’t fill up the silence that conversation does. Wondering if I want to be bothered ever again.  I know I won’t in many ways.

To be honest, I just don’t.  It simply hurts too much to have something only to lose it with no choice or say in the matter.  But I also wonder, in an abstract sort of way, does loosing a loved one impair one’s capacity for love?  Or does it just change it?  Modify it?  Morph it into something easier managed.

But we were not made to be an island were we?  No, we have to mingle with others.  That’s what we, as humans, do.  Mike did tell me before he died that he was worried about me.  That he knew I would want to withdraw from the world, withdraw especially from people. (He knew, though didn’t share my view,  people can be mean. People can be cruel. People can be cold and callous.

Some people in our life during Mike’s illness and some since his death have been all those things.  But, granted, not all people.) That he pictured me being found dead some day, all alone.  “they” (whoever they are) would break in and find me surrounded by books and cats.  A small path left to walk in.  I responded to him in my usual sarcastic manner, “and you say that like it’s a bad thing.  Besides I only have one cat and I prefer dogs.”  He just looked back at me having said what he wanted to say and not feeling up to a debate.

But was he right?  Was I wrong in thinking it’s not a bad thing?  Probably. He usually was right about such things.  Though my desire to withdrawal is still ever present.  An urging like none other except perhaps that urge to crawl into his body and go with him.  But like that urging which I could not do I cannot withdrawal from the human race.

So now that a year has gone by I know I have to reassess everything that I once knew.  Everything that I’ve done.  Everything that I will do.  All of which will be done with love, without my love, without Mike.

Is it truly better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?  If so, what is better?

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