Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Phase 2: A Love Story That Will Never End

Today I cried, but only after reflecting again upon the most wonderful experience in my life, 32+ years with Joan Casey.

I’d like to think that these were tears of joy, but they were also mixed with tears of sadness and loss.

How could they not be so?
I am after all, human.
Sometimes very human.
One day I will perhaps become less human, but until that time, why not cry when I feel the need?
Little boys are taught not to cry, but I haven’t learned that very well.
Now that I’m an old guy, who cares? 

I cried today after another insightful reflection, about who Joan & I were and what made us so attracted and devoted to each other.

Both of us had relatively comfortable lives and fairly strict upbringing, which proved to be both blessing and curse.
Blessing, because we were healthy, obtained good educations, had solid values and were good with other people.
Curse, because we almost expected life to be on cruise control, that all we ever needed would be provided, that troubles and misfortunes were for other people.
How wrong we were!

While neither us suffered from real hardship or deprivation, we did have individual challenges that involved issues like trust, acceptance of the lives we had, and issues of what constituted love.
I suspect anyone would experience such confrontations in life, but only some might have them be a cause of despair and deep questioning of beliefs and faith. 

Each, in our way, had experienced the urge to do something different, live in another place, enjoy adventure and the companionship and love everyone wants.
And, each in our own way, dealt with these desires only after suffering some real ruts and bumps in the road of life.
Time does heal wounds, but lessons to be learned also require time to digest and figure out how to use.

Both Joan and I had reached similar places in our lives, when we were open to interaction and change of the most profound kind.
We were fortunate to meet under circumstances so conducive to friendship.
We had each gone through disappointing relationships that soured our appetites for more of the same.
Something we had lacked was the main culprit, although unsaid at the time.

Nevertheless, we were ripe for a positive change, and when we met a mutual attraction was triggered, slow at first but maturing quickly into real love - and healthy respect from where we had been.
About 2 months later, we were writing each other love letters, a really old-fashioned thing to do!
But, we were both somewhat old-fashioned and didn’t care about much except getting to know each other better; something we never ceased to do.

Being bruised and cautious does slow down relationships, but ours progressed steadily. Nine months later, Joan invited me to live in her house; something I did willingly, to be closer to her more often.
Soon after, I asked her to marry me.
She didn’t say no, but did want more time to consider the proposal.
We continued to enjoy all sorts of outdoor activities and learning experiences.

Five years later, we were still considering my proposal when a job opportunity came, requiring a move to Bellingham.
Joan could see the opportunity was a good one, and we agreed to go together - after getting married!
Wow, Joan’s first marriage at age 49 was such a joyous occasion I couldn’t believe it!
We moved and bought her dream house together, where we lived for 26 happy years, while again enjoying all kinds of activities, friends and memories. 

After such an extended time of happiness, Joan died, unexpectedly on our way home from San Francisco, where she had just completed the renovation of her ‘little old lady’ home. What a shock!
She was in hospital in Redding, CA for 3 weeks before she passed from this life.
We alternately felt encouraged at her recovery prospects and saddened by her serious condition, which prevented her from being moved.

Although we had discussed end-of-life issues, neither of us was ready for what happened - me least of all.
The day before Joan passed was awful, except one Vajra Sister, Nora, was there to comfort her and assist with the Buddhist practices for which Joan strongly wished.
Even though she was minimally conscious, I remained hopeful that a miracle would manifest and make Joan well again. 

At her bedside, I held her hand; something we often did.
Then, late at night, I went to rest.
At 4 AM, the phone rang and the nurse said I ought to come to Joan’s side; her vital signs were dropping and were was little hope she might improve.
I was there in minutes, holding her hand, lightly rubbing her head and whispering sweet nothings meant to comfort her.
I believe this reached her consciousness, before I gave the signal to stop the intubation on the nurses advice. 

Joan descended peacefully, with very little physical movement, then slowly a peaceful smile appeared on her face.
I will never forget that moment, torn between grief and prayers for her joyful passage into the bardo of dying.
Then, very quickly, it was over.

Almost automatically, I sprang into action; so many things to do and attend to - it was almost overwhelming!
But, I needed to do it, to honor Joan, to set the necessary legalities in motion.
So much to do, so little time.
Then, it occurred to me this was a metaphor to life; our rushing around was always to meet some deadline - real or imagined. 

That is when I calmed down enough to truly honor Joan, her delightful spirit, always good aspirations, and wonderful smile, all stamped indelibly in my consciousness.

I am so thankful for the inspiration Missus Joan gave me, to go on strongly and determinedly, to do all the good I can - and no harm!
That has kept me going so far, and perhaps much longer than I expected. 

But, today I am writing this in preparation to posting it at 9 AM tomorrow, to mark the first anniversary of my Dear Joan’s passing.
May her spirit endure forever!
I love her still…and always will…