There are women who have taken care of me since Dave got sick. Just about everything I've learned about love and devotion I've learned from them.
Dave's death cut the cord keeping me upright on this planet and as I fell, fell, fell, unable to stop the falling, unable to breathe, they cradled me.
In every sense of the words, cradled me. In the car on the way home from the hospital that day, they cradled me, one physically, and the other, while driving us, with her mind and heart. I could feel her energy radiating from the front seat. It held me.
They fed me, they helped me out of bed. They fielded the tasks I couldn't yet bring myself to do. They did them. They didn't do them out of obligation, they felt honored to. I am a part of them and they are a part of me.
And many times when we get together now, we retell these stories. The story of the moments we remember that brought us together in the hours and days after Dave left this earth. We talk about the horror, the pain, the love, the fear, the fury, the agony, the confusion.
We talk and we cry and we build up this bond we have until it feels like metal armor, keeping the pain of life from crippling us. Watching each other, knowing that at the first sign of needing to be held, we'll drop it all to be there. To do the holding while the other of us falls, falls, falls.
We know that we were brought together for a reason. We know we are more than just women who happen to be friends. We know that while we are not biologically related, we are related in a way that transcends blood. It feels as though these women were my family in this life and in lives before and if you knew me, you'd know that I don't speak woo-woo often. But this I know.
The other night, sitting around a fire pit, with a chorus of frogs to talk over and the sounds of great blue herons croaking their goodnights above us, we said it all again. We talked about how we belonged to each other, above and beyond the changes that rock our worlds, the men in our lives who might come and go. The places we live might be farther and farther apart and our jobs might change, but nothing changes what we mean to each other and the love we feel for each other. I know that nothing so bad could happen to me that I couldn't find my home again, that I couldn't find myself again. I know I can find them.
There is, in the celtic tradition, the notion of anam cara, or soul friend. It is believed that when you have an anam cara, you can come home to yourself. That kind of unconditional love allows you to feel less fear of solitude. Your soul can be itself.
If life itself is under the shadow of sadness and loss, then love like that can shelter us from the bleakness. It's our respite.
I am lucky enough to have several of these anam caras. They are why I've had the strength to keep going. They are who I think of when I think I've had enough of the pain of this life. They are my shelter from the harshness of life. They're my soul friends.
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