Long before my husband died, I asked him what he thought happens when death knocks and the last breath is gone. He was an atheist, but a great believer in the principals of Buddhism. He was the calmest, most serene person I have ever met. He centered me. But he did not believe in an afterlife – which I understood, yet at the same time was confused – as a minister’s daughter, I thought most people believed in heaven or hell…

Rather, he believed we all just become one with nature. All the cells, the body, the thoughts, go back to the earth or the sky or the sea and become one with the rest of life. I had never imagined this possibility before. I had come to believe early on, through personal skepticism, that there was nothing after what our conscious lives are. My father, a preacher, spoke of heaven. My youth teacher (at church) intimated that hell could be here, on earth, this life we were living. I had never considered what my husband was saying to me. Becoming a part of nature? Part of what we breathe? A sense of always being there?

I have never felt his presence, since his death.

And yet, the spring/summer after he died. when my parents were still able to go to the Island, my mother called to tell me, for the first time since she had been there (close to 50 years), a trillium had bloomed. She was in awe and the excitement in her voice was amazing. Until they were unable to go, last summer, she told me every year it was still there.

It was a beautiful and calming way to think of death. But I will admit it was hard for me to accept it.

I had never heard of a trillium. I have a black thumb and it is simply amazing my house plants survived during my graduate school years…I lived on peanut butter and Easy Mac.

And this is what I have learned about them:

Trillium’s three leaves and petals emerge in perfect symmetry, reflecting the three facets of the Trillium path– Consciousness, Embodiment, Mutuality. 

Trillium essence is said to…Encourage integration of personal energy into the universal matrix

Enhance resonance with Oneness/Invoke celebration and compassion

Soften outdated belief structures/Soothe our delicate feeling natures

Support birth, by assisting another soul to become embodied.

The trillium appears in several hues, but the purest white, suggests divinity, spiritual light, and compassion.

So, is this my husband’s way of letting me know he is one with nature and still around? I do not have an answer to that, since I am so lost in the forest, still trying to come to terms with his death.

Every morning when I walk into work, this W.H. Auden poem revolves around in my head, like a mantra:

Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

I have mentioned this before. There is a copy of it on my filing cabinet at work, bookmarked by a photo of him with a rainbow over his head and the trillium at the Island. I never thought of this symmetry before. The fact that I could be staring at his human form in one moment and a flower, reflecting who he was in another.

But maybe that is what death is like for those as awake and conscious as he was. In touch with himself and nature. No matter what craziness was happening around him, he was always centered. He was my rock.

I had never thought, before a few days ago, as I have been screaming to the heavens for 13 years “where is he?”, that he could have been here all along. As a delicate, beautiful flower. But it has been many years since I was at the Island, because it is painful for me. Yet, now my soul calls for me to go there. To lay on the ground above where I buried the remainders of his ashes that were left after I scattered parts of him across the world, in all the places he loved. I cry uncontrollably when I do this, but I know as horrid as the pain and grief are, I cannot hold it in. And I shouldn’t have to. I should still be able to grieve.

I miss him more than any words could ever express, any piece of art could depict. I will always miss him. He was unique. He was my everything. As much as I love my partner, who I have been with for almost the same amount of time, it is such a different relationship. He is more volatile. He gets frustrated easily when things are not working. I was ignored for most of the day yesterday, when he got frustrated over the phone situation. He knows the cell towers here are not great. But what he did not consider was where he is now is experiencing sub-zero temperatures, which will always fuck with phone/electric/power.

But it was my fault, or so I believed it was, after his anger and frustration spilled out at me. And it was a horrible, shitty, shitty day. I did not sleep. I do not know how I am going to accomplish anything today. My brain, body, stomach are all a mess. Being dismissed is not healthy for any relationship. And with how I am feeling this morning (after thankfully getting an email from him, so I know he didn’t commit suicide last night) I just want to disappear and never let anyone know where I land – except my best friend.

Sundays used to be such lovely days. My husband and I would get the NY Times. He would comb through all the sections, reading me interesting stories while I consumed the crossword. It was a lovely lazy day, and there was no anxiety about going back to work the next day. It was simply living from moment to moment and enjoying what each one brought.

Now it just feels like existing until the final breath is gone. And I hate it. I loathe it, because I know life can be so much more than this.

We used to have the most wonderful caretaker for the Island, whom I decided was my adopted grandfather. He was the only one outside of the immediate family that we invited to the wedding. When he was younger, he worked for the car industry in Flint, but it was not for him, so he found a piece of land on one of the other islands on the lake, and reclaimed some of the earth from the water and built himself a small house where he could live year-round and simply be. I cannot express how many times in the last two years his way of living has become something I wish for. I do not need the professional clothing, the heels, the nails and haircuts that are always on my calendar. No, instead I need nature. And healing. And the belief that I am more than what others’ say, and remember that what I had – the treasure of the decade with my husband – truly exists. Perhaps only once in a lifetime. Perhaps one gets lucky and finds it again.

What I need is to find myself again. I do not need the crazy makers, the pressure to be perfect, the backstabbing that happens in this day and age. I need the solitude and the serenity of the lake and the Island to help me find myself again.

I need to go back and see if my Trillium is still there. If he is still there.

© Sorrow & Kindness

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