|Joan & Robert line dancing, 2001|
Thirteen years ago today, I kissed Robert for the first time.
Six years ago today, I kissed Robert for the last time.
Sometimes I think that he chose to die on the anniversary of our first kiss, so that I could soften the memory of his death with the memory of our first kiss. But as vivid as that first kiss is is my mind, as clearly as I still feel the magic of the moonlight on the first night we dared to touch, these memories don’t soften the loss — or the harshness of remembering how this gentle, loving, good man suffered from a painful cancer.
On this anniversary, I keep writing sentences and deleting them. I could write in my journal instead, and every word would stay.
|Robert’s last birthday, 2007|
But I’m not just writing for myself here — I’m writing for you, my community of readers, and many of you have suffered your own losses, many fresher than mine. Some of you are with the person whom you love, and you can’t imagine how you could survive losing your beloved. Others have been alone for a very long time. Some of you are losing someone now.
So what would be of use and of interest to you?
Here are some things that I’ve learned over the six years:
1. It does get better with time. Everyone told me that, and frankly, I couldn’t imagine it during the first years. My heart and gut had been sliced into pieces, the elephant kept stomping on my chest, and the most important person in my world was gone. How could this possibly get better? But it did.
2. We are remarkably resilient. We survive. We learn to laugh again. We feel the life force within us filling us with possibility.
3. We gradually find ourselves able to connect with new people. Many of us learn to love again. No, I haven’t fallen in love again, but believe it or not, I feel more open to that possibility than I ever would have predicted. I am able to connect with men now, and that feels good.
4. We can find our beloved in our world if we look and listen. Sometimes I practice being really quiet and watching nature around me. Then a bird swoops close, alights on a branch, and sings. I like to imagine that Robert sent me that bird.Or that iris that I spot on one of my walks that looks like the one in the kimono painting he created for me for one birthday.
5. We carry within us the best of the person whom we loved. I’m not religious, and I don’t know whether there’s an afterlife. But I do believe that the special lessons we learned from our beloved, the ways we grew that would not have happened without this person, these are the ways that our beloved continues to live. And when we pass those lessons on to someone else, this is immortality.
If you lost a loved one, I invite you to share what you’ve learned since that loss that might help others.
(If you haven’t read Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty — my first senior sex book which narrates our spicy love story, learn more here.)