I'm back from spending two weeks at my brother and sister-in-law's house in western Washington, helping care for my dad, Bob Tweit, as he journeyed from being present and with us, to still and silent, doing the work of leaving this world. Tending to a dying loved one is a huge gift in the intimacy it inspires, the love that flows in the work of hands and heart--the changing of diapers, cleaning up pee and poop, the feeding and administering medications.

Richard Cabe (1950-2011) ogling wildflowers

Five years ago today, at 11:07 am, Richard Cabe, the love of my life and the father of my beloved step-daughter, Molly, took his last gulping breaths. I still miss him acutely, though not every moment and not with the sharp pain of that initial parting.

After five years, the missing him is more like a dull, nagging ache, a bruise in the part of my heart our nearly 29 years together live. 

I thought I was done with Bless the Birds. Ready to send it out in the world to find an eager publisher. (The photo above is the guy who the story is about, happily striding through the forest between brain surgeries two and three. Loving his moments.)

It was a rare slow night at Amicas, the wood-fired pizza restaurant in my neighborhood, which meant John, my favorite manager, had time to chat after I ordered my pizza to go. 

"How have you been?" he asked. I haven't been in for quite a while. Either I'm on the road, or home and feeling too vulnerable to be social--my loss, I know.

"Pretty good," I waggled my hand to indicate the ups and downs. 

For almost 29 years, I had the great gift of sharing this life with the man I loved almost more than life itself. Richard and I were as close as two humans could be--we held hands wherever we went, and we often completed each other's sentences, or knew what the other was going to say before the words came out. Our bodies knew each other as if we had been born twins, not six years and three states apart, on opposite sides of the North-South cultural/political divide and to very different family cultures as well. 

Friday was the fourth anniversary of Richard's death. In honor of the journey we took with his brain cancer, one in which we were determined to live well through whatever came, here are eleven of the most important lessons we learned. Some are specific, some are applicable to any stage in our lives:

Richard Cabe, 1950-2011, with one of his beloved "ambassadors of the earth." Richard Cabe, 1950-2011, with one of his beloved "ambassadors of the earth."
Richard and me (and our Great Dane, Isis) by the Arkansas River in earlier years. Richard and me (and our Great Dane, Isis) by the Arkansas River in 2003.
Summer silliness (photo by Scott Calhoun) Summer silliness (photo by Scott Calhoun)

Last Wednesday, the second anniversary of Richard's death, I thought about what I've accomplished over the past 104 weeks.

Richard and Susan in the Tularosa Basin of Southern New Mexico, around 1992. Richard and Susan (I'm standing on a boulder in a rare moment of tallness) in the Tularosa Basin of Southern New Mexico, around 1992.

“What’s with all the birds?”

I usually post on this blog once a week, often on Sunday night. Last weekend though, I was involved in negotiations related to the sale contract on Terraphilia.

Sandra D. Lynn and granddaughter Skye Sandra D. Lynn and granddaughter Skye

Last Wednesday morning, on my long drive to Western Washington, I stopped to check email in Spanish Fork on Utah's Wasatch Front, between spearing peaks and sprawling suburbs.

My 7-pound pneumatic nailer
The view out the kitchen window, looking over the roofs of downtown to the Sangre de Cristo Range in the distance.
Molly Cabe and Carol Ley, harpist for Angel of Shavano Hospice, play a duet in our living room, November, 2011

I'll be on the road for much of the next few weeks, teaching, speaking, and visiting Richard's family, so forgive me if blog posts are less frequent. But I wanted to share some good news before I head over the horizon.

Richard talking about his sculpture work, Salida Artposium, Colorado Art Ranch. (Photo by Grant Pound, courtesy of Colorado Art Ranch)
Our trusty Subaru Forester on a gravel road in northwestern Colorado, laying down another "thread" across the landscapes we loved to explore.