It is a chilly October morning and I am listening to the wind and watching the early light steal across the sky. I want to write words that are meaningful and resonate with others who are grieving, too. I want to speak to the parts of me that others may keep hidden, even from themselves. I want to share the broken bits and the light of hope that shines between the cracks in the brokeness. I want to be eloquent and wise.
But some days, the words aren't there. Some days all I can do is speak of my direct experience with grief and loss. Some days all I can do is write what is present for me, in this moment, and hope that the words make sense.
It has been an exhausting week, though I didn't seem to accomplish much. Recently, the expectations at my workplace have made me question my capability for the job and even my desire to remain in the field in which I have worked for the past 35 years. And I have found myself searching for Stan, in the hope that he could, as he did when he was alive, ground me in the truth, help me shift my thinking and priorities, and gain a wider perspective.
But I don't know where he is.
Since he died, 15 months ago, I have searched for him, everywhere.
I have tried to find him in my memory, pouring over photos and preserving on the page the tiny details of our life together. I have travelled miles to visit the places that he loved, and showed me, and that I grew to love, too. I have shared memories with his friends and children. I have tried to paint a picture with my words for those who did not know him, regaling them with stories of his antics, his humour, his wisdom and character. I have tried to teach them, through my words, about the man that he was.
I have wrapped my arms around myself and tried to remember the warmth of his touch. I have kept his dressing gown and his winter hat that hold within them the traces of his scent. I have kept his wallet, his glasses, his nail clippers, the soaps he used the last morning of his life.
I have walked these hills and talked to him, and searched for his beloved rabbits in the grasses, hoping they would bring me a sign from another realm--the realm where he may be resting.
I want to believe that he still exists, somewhere, and that, if I try hard enough, and if I am good enough, I will find him.
Some days, he feels as close to me as my skin. Some nights, when I lie in bed, I can feel the weight of his arms around me, and his kiss upon my cheek as I drift off to sleep.
But other days, it's as if he has vanished into thin air.
There are those who believe in heaven, and an afterlife, and are comforted by the knowing that they will visit their loved ones when they die, that the husbands, wives, parents and children who have passed before them will be standing in the mist, bathed in white light, beckoning them to come, to join them, in a place of eternal peace.
I want to believe that, too.
There are those who believe that we continue, when we die, but not as ourselves, that there is no fixed soul that travels to a great beyond, but that our lives are like a flame, and that a piece of us continues and becomes a part of All That Is.
This is the belief that makes sense for me, today, sitting here, watching the green and orange leaves dance with the wind.
I don't know what the afterlife holds. I only know that I cannot visit it, now. That wherever Stan is, whatever he has become, he is not the Stan I knew and loved, here, on this earth. That I can't reach for him in the way that I want to, can't rely on him to make my world kinder and safer, that I can't nestle into his arms and know that I am going to be alright.
Since he died, so many months ago, now, my heart has been filled with so much longing.
Perhaps it is time to put this longing to rest. It doesn't serve me, or him, wherever he is, to continue to cling to the hope of finding what can no longer be.
Perhaps I can sit with the knowledge that Stan lives in me--in the way he changed me, helped me to learn, and discover, and grow.
Sitting here, watching the morning light dimmed by a soft layer of cloud, I know that there are no concrete answers. There is only the mystery. There is only the knowledge of the thin veil between life and death that brings meaning and sweetness to our time here on earth. There is no certainty. Only more questions.
My search for Stan is not finished. I will look for him again. And maybe my longing can never be fully put to rest. There will always be a part of my heart that wants him back, standing before me, the way he was, that will wish for what can never be again.
It's what makes us human, this longing. This searching. This ever present and never diminishing love.