This morning as I walked back to Joe’s park, where he took his last breath, I was once again so grateful for this gift that he left me; left us, those that loved him. He thought this through. As sad and tragic as it all is he made sure of certain things. You can see his compassion and his love even in his death. I am not surprised by this, and for those who really knew him, you wouldn’t be either.
He made sure to tell me where he went. I wonder how many times he made that walk? Was it just that morning or had he walked it many times before? He didn’t want me to be the one to find him. That would be the last thing he ever wanted. He made sure I had the sunset; we watched it together as often as possible. He gave me the shade tree to sit under, just the way I like it- branches hanging low for cover and for privacy. A beautiful sanctuary where the birds are singing and nature is surrounding me. We lived in the outdoors as much as we possibly could (mostly from our tent.) A place to come and sit where I could either be alone or surrounded by those that loved him and love me, so much.
He made sure to tell me he loved me before he walked out the door. I don’t remember that phrase coming out of his mouth but I know it did. Rarely did we hug (“I need a hug”, he said) without those three words being spoken. No kiss. That, I guess, was my final gift to him. Because as Travis, our oldest son said, “if he would have kissed you he couldn’t have made that walk.” He’s so right. How did I not see that then? It’s so obvious to me now.
He did as much around the house that needed to be done, that he possibly could, before that morning. He had a laundry list of repairs and updates that he was “working” on. He left me an inventory to start fresh, on my own. The dryer vent in the crawl space that had needed to be repaired for some time now. The new roof he built over the well house. The throwing away and cleaning out of the “things he didn’t know why he’d ever saved.” The trimming of the trees, the mowing of the grass, the pump that was clogged in his frog/turtle pond, the last package that needed to be shipped.
He left us with so much love and grace that I will be forever grateful. I can see him everywhere. I can’t feel him, not yet, but I know I will. When I get “back to it”, I imagine. When everything settles and the website is opened back up, with my candles, not his. When I have to go pour my first batch without him. Or decide on a “new name” for a new blend. When I turn on Netflix and watch one of our favorite shows or one of our four favorite movies, yearly favorites:
Dances with Wolves
A River Runs Through It
Band of Brothers or
The weather’s been beautiful since he left. Many days and nights spent sitting on the deck now (new furniture placement for fresh starts and new memories), flower pots full and blooming now, where they’d sat empty this year. Grandkids running in and out of the house with the air on and bringing life back to this house. I can feel the expansion of my lungs, breathing again, no more holding my breathe, wondering how this would all turn out. Because now we know.
I know it’s ok to move on, keep living, walk a new walk when we’re the ones left behind. It’s the irony of life, right? We don’t have a choice in the matter. The sun still rises and sets. We still have to put food on the table and pay our bills. Joe knew that I had the strength inside of me that would get me through this most difficult time of my life. He knew I would be surrounded by love. He knew it’s what had been lacking in our lives for a long time now, he told me so. We talked about everything. Everything. He left me with only one secret; his last act of love, as he saw it.
If I have one piece of advice for marriage and love it’s to be vulnerable. Take chances, say things that need to be said- with love– and share your heart, your story. Joe and I had no secrets in the end, except for his final choice to walk away. When I say that joe and I had a happy life- I mean we had a HAPPY FREAKIN LIFE. He just couldn’t get past the deep-seated trauma that haunted him. His leaving me was (in his mind) his final gift. He did this for me (again, in his mind.) He didn’t want to hold me back from living an awesome life, to be a caretaker to him, never leaving him alone. But he robbed me of the opportunity to be my best and to show up for him- in sickness and in health- till death do us part. If only he knew, it was all because of him that it was already awesome.