In the first weeks after Heather's passing I would say to people, "Heather's dead and I'm a ghost." I walked through the world numb, my vision gazing inward, not truly present with the many loving people surrounding me. "You've been through so much," they'd say about the two and a half years since Heather's diagnosis and especially the last six months in the hospital, during which, with the help of family & friends, I was able to spend most every day and night in the hospital room with Heather. During those two and a half years Heather had the hard part, my tasks were easy by comparison: she had to experience the bone pain, the side effects from drugs, the loss of her autonomy; and she had to face her mortality square on. Now that she is gone, I have the hard part.
|"for me the past is no longer a credible predictor of future events..."--from my forthcoming novel, Romanticide|
In the past two months or so I have been able to again enjoy life...to be present with friends, laugh, be entertained. Yet the feeling of being unmoored persists, and the unreality of a world without Heather stings afresh daily, hourly.
As a writer I think of my life in story terms...and as I remember and tell it, everything in my life led up to the moment when I met Heather, and then got to live my days with her. What then, in her absence, is the rest of my story? It feels to me that, like an Olympic athlete retiring as a teenager, I have reached the pinnacle of my existence, and the remainder is memory and marking time till the actual end. I do not think I can ever love again so deeply, be with someone so fully as I was with Heather. I used to say that Heather would be my last relationship because either we would stay together the rest of our lives or we would break up, in which case I wouldn't bother with another relationship because if I couldn't make one work with Heather then I wouldn't be able to do so with anyone else. I didn't foresee this end, where she would leave me in full bloom, with a large chunk of time on my hands. Certainly there are books upon books that I want and need to write, some of which are directly about or inspired by Heather, but I have always viewed my work as secondary to my life, so those books, however well they turn out, will be cold comfort.
In this desperate situation I may be forced to take my own advice, for I well know the remedy to the emotional estrangement I'm experiencing; I have written and told it countless times in myriad ways. I am built for love and my spirit requires its intoxicating presence as surely as my lungs need air. In the film "Harold and Maude" when Harold finds out Maude has taken a poison to kill herself he says, "But Maude, I love you."
"Harold, that's wonderful," Maude says. "Go and love some more."
This is what I want to do--love some more. But there are complexities to enacting this simple dictum. A song I wrote more than a quarter century ago ends with these lines:
First love, best love
That is all for now
If I can live without you love
Please don't tell me how
Though written before I met Heather, these words are nevertheless apt for my current circumstance. The love is both general and specific...on the one hand I don't want to live without my love, Heather, and on the other hand I can't envision life without Love.
Time affects but does not heal this wound, and I don't believe in five years or fifty that the essential difficulty will be lessened. I ache in a place that goes to my core and nothing can change that. I will seek love not because I will it, not even because I want it, but because love is part of my autonomic emotional system, to live without it is tantamount to death, and I have never been nor am I now suicidal. Although my rational mind will go forward with little hope and zero expectation of finding love (whose abundance is repressed by the glib and facile elements of our culture), my unreasoned psyche possesses a Faith represented by my fervent belief in the power of love to imbue life with meaning. It is on this I stake my future.