Read an Excerpt
On my first trip back, I carried John’s pack with a bottle of water, a PBJ sandwich in his honor, tortilla chips, my small camera and a copy of Kim’s remarks at the memorial service. When I emerged from the forest into the clearing, my pulse quickened. I could see the tree but not the cairn. What if it wasn’t there? What if some animal or insensitive human had destroyed it? I picked up my pace until I was standing next to the fir. The cairn was intact, the ashes still visible. Whew!
Sitting cross-legged, I pulled out Kim’s remarks and started reading, sometimes reading aloud the words he spoke at the service. Before I got to the end of the poem by Anne Lamott, I was sobbing.
“If you haven’t already,
You will lose someone you can’t live without,
And your heart will be badly broken,
And you will never get over the loss of a deeply beloved person.”
I closed my eyes, letting the sound of water breaking against rocks rocket through me. I would never get over it. How could I? The loss was too great.
“When we married,” I said, gazing at the cairn, “I never imagined anything but being with you day and night. We never discussed the possibility of a foreshortened life together, and even when you were dying we never talked about my life without you. You must have sensed the profound sadness that lay ahead of me. Double suicide would have been a blessing, but I didn’t want to die. Not then.
“And now you’re inside me so much that I don’t know what is me and what is you. It’s as though we’re one. With every breath, with every step I take, I feel you’re with me. I can’t differentiate between us. That comforts me, and it confuses me. Who am I? Am I nothing without you? If I’m nothing, how do I live? I thought I couldbut now I’m not sure.”
I pulled a tissue from my jeans pocket and wiped my cheeks. “As if summoned, you appeared when I was trying to make a life for myself without Joe. It was you who brought me back to life, you who reached for my hand that night when I told you how Joe died. And when you reached for my hand, it was as though you were lifting me out of my grief. With sensitivity and persistence you rekindled my zest for living. My dulled senses came alive. Because of you I learned to appreciate good coffee, wine, single malt Scotch and ethnic foods. Your love of jazz became mine. You introduced me to the Southwest. You adopted my dreams, and I yours, and together we forged new ones. And now it’s all over.