Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m a shameless romantic, so I celebrate the day without regard to how commercialized it may be. I figure how I respond is my choice. I chose to honor the spirit of the day, so my Valentine’s Day is about love, not money.
Love comes in many forms. The one that’s on my mind today (and every day), less than three months after the death of the love of my life, Richard Cabe, is the love we shared for almost 29 years. He named what ran between us a “body of love,” as if it were a physical thing we nurtured. That’s apt.
Another way to describe the extraordinarily tender, flexible, and durable bond we were so fortunate to fall into and worked so hard to keep healthy over the decades comes in this passage from my memoir, Walking Nature Home, A Life’s Journey. I read this piece aloud in the Rapid-Fire Salute to Literature, a series of one-minute readings by writers and lovers of words at the grand re-opening of Salida’s indie bookstore, The Book Haven a few weeks ago. I wasn’t sure I’d make it through without crying:
As the sun sets behind the peaks to the west, I pour Richard’s favorite beer, and get myself a glass of filtered water. Richard comes over to sit next to me; we both turn to look at the last light.
“What thoughts?” I ask.
“Just that I love you.”
It’s been almost twenty-nine years since our improbable instant pairing. And when we sit together like this at the end of the day and I ask what’s happening, what springs to his mind is love.
I don’t think I knew what love was back then.
Now I believe I do. It’s how we are we are together: the way his face lights up when I walk into a room. His hand, reaching for mine.
That we can be comfortable in silence, yet be eager to hear what the other has to say. It’s that sitting side by side at the end of a long day, when I ask what he’s thinking, he says, “That I love you.” And I know he means it.
(That passage is greatly excerpted, by the way, in order to fit into my allotted minute. Which shows you even polished, published writing can still be tightened up with careful editing. You can hear the whole thing on the audio-book version of Walking Nature Home, read by yours truly. A fine gift to yourself, or anyone you love…)
In his last year, the year none of his docs expected him to have, Richard lived love. It just shone out of him. Not that he was a slouch about expressing love to begin with, as the note in the photo above shows. He wrote it on our first Valentine’s Day together, just weeks after we went on our first and only date, when we decided by the end of the night to, in his words, “live our lives side by side.” “Susan,” the note says in his precise hand,
Hoping this [a copy of The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, a cookbook by Mollie Katzen] gives you pleasure for a very long time; and hoping we’ll share in each other’s lives for even longer.
With more love than I know how to express, Richard.
Sadly, the cookbook, which you can tell by the cover, is well-used, outlasted the giver, who died November 27, 2011, of brain cancer. Perhaps because he knew his life wouldn’t last long, many of his conversations in his last weeks were about love, especially the Buddhist concept of metta, lovingkindness.
His last sentence, just a bit over a day before he died, was “I love you.” He was looking at Molly and me, and he enunciated each word clearly.
The night before he died, he managed one word, as he squeezed my hand feebly, his strength almost gone.
“Love,” he said.
Yeah. Me too. Still. Always.