A week ago yesterday the love of my life, Richard Cabe, died of brain cancer. After we sat in silence with his body, sending him on his way with mindful hearts, after we washed his body and consigned him to the care of the funeral home folks on the way to the CU Medical School, our little group of family and friends walked over to a favorite local restaurant, Laughing Ladies, for brunch. We ate, toasted Richard, and laughed and cried. And then we walked home.
So it’s gone this week: Through the seemingly endless rounds of official phone calls and forms, the cleaning and organizing, answering cards and emails–all of the work generated by any death, gracious, graceful, or otherwise, I’ve worked to live well, mindfully and with thankfulness for the life I have.
Each day I get up before dawn, measure out the whole grains and dried fruits for my hot breakfast cereal, clean the wood stove and make a fire, and do yoga to greet the day, centering myself in this landscape, here at home. Each day I thank my love for helping design and build this house that enfolds me in the work of his hand and heart. Each day I look for some grace note. Each day I put hands to keyboard and write, even if only for an hour.
And each day I consciously do something to bring joy to my life, honoring his memory and our shared love of this numinous blue planet and the lives it supports.
Yesterday I went cross-country skiiing with my friend Lisa. Neither of us had gotten our cross-country skiis out in more than a year, so getting ready for our jaunt around the neighborhood golf course meant a search for skis and poles and gaiters and other gear. And then when Lisa walked over, skis on her shoulder, and confessed that she had completely forgotten how to operate the bindings, we spent a few hilarious minutes of random poking and prying until the bindings popped open.
We passed a glorious hour at the golf course schussing on fresh snow, our skis swishing and our legs moving in a rhythm that has always seemed to me close to what it must feel to be able to cup wings on air and take flight. We skiied past a hundred or so Canada and cackling geese, roosting with bare feet on the snow, past fox tracks and pounce marks, past quiet houses and noisy dogs. When we got back to where we started, we decided we’d go around again. So we did, finishing flushed and a little sweaty and very pleased with ourselves.
Does it seem wrong to look for joy a mere eight days after my love’s death? Perhaps I should be doubled over, wracked with sobs, or curled up under the covers, eyes shut to the world.
That’s not for me. I think the best way to honor the love Richard and I worked hard to grow over nearly 29 years, to honor his love for all life, large and small, common or obscure, beautiful and grotesque; his attitude of lovingkindness toward the earth, and the smile that touched everyone who met him is to practice living well on my own.
By “living well,” I mean living in the spirit that we shared: living with my heart outstretched as if it were my hand–an attitude of love, kindness, joy, generosity, and appreciation for the gift of each moment.
In that spirit, today I dug out his gift to the junco flock that forages in our back courtyard in winter. He cut two star shapes out of half-inch-thick particle board, drilled a hole in the top point of each star, and threaded twine through to hang each under the eaves of our back porch.
I slathered each star with peanut butter (fresh-ground, organic of course!), dredged them in a mix of chopped walnuts, raisins, dried cranberries, and dried cherries, and hung them on the back porch where the juncos can feed undisturbed by neighborhood cats or other predators.
And laughed out loud when a junco flew right up to the wire perch below one of the stars and began pecking at it, stretching energetically on its tiptoes to pick off choice pieces of nut and dried fruit.
Thank you, love, for the gift of that laughter. Your spirit shines brightly through my days.