New love and all the complicated, bizarre beauty of it has become the theme of late in my life and in my writing. A woman who read my blog post last week about Mike coming to visit and meet my in-laws for the first time, sent me a note about just this. Only her story is from another perspective. With her permission, I am sharing a bit of her story with you:
“I have just spent the past 4 days with my son-in-law and his new bride. My daughter, his wife, died 2 yrs and 8 months ago. They married 5 days after she was diagnosed with leukemia, 3 days after she started chemo. She fought for 20 months. And then she died.
I told Logan then, as I had before, and as I have since, that he is mine forever. AND that I want a WHOLE life for him, knowing that meant another wife, kids with her, the whole kit and caboodle. The thought of this and the reality of this are 2 entirely different things!
And I have told Sarah, his new wife, that the dichotomy of love is the ability to simultaneously miss one person's absence and celebrate another's presence, in the same moment, in the same breath. And that the 2 have nothing to do with each other. They are separate, whole occurrences.
We attended their wedding. Our son was in their wedding party and my husband and I did one of the readings. I had a party for them when they arrived on Saturday. (They live on Vancouver Island and we live in northern CO.) My family and many of our daughter, Jen's, friends came. And while it wasn't perfect, even somewhat awkward, my family, who miss Jen desperately, and who are exceptionally protective of me, came. They embraced and smiled and accepted that which is good and right and normal and so very hard.
Then we went to the mountains
, to visit Jen's gravesite and see the monument that Logan had placed. And Logan and Sarah and Jen's Dad, Ken, climbed a mountain, Jen's mountain, where her favorite shoes are buried in a scree field and her ashes dance on the wind.
Love conquers all! It conquers heartache and anger. It conquers awkwardness and loneliness and cowardice. It conquers the desperate and the depressed. Love doesn't negate these things, or minimize them, or cover them in candy coating. Love allows the heart to move through all of these things, experiencing each one with the sure and certain knowledge that there is more waiting, just over the hill.”
Her story was such a beautiful reminder to me that love knows no bounds. The photo at the beginning of this post - which you have probably figured out by now - is Logan's new wife Sarah, tending to the memorial of his first wife, Jen.
The image and my friend's story hit home for me this week. I don't take many people out Drew's grave because it's a very private place for me. Since he died, I've spent countless hours and days and tears and naps there alone. Each time I arrive, I sit down and lean my back against his headstone, always off to the left side. In part leaving space for him next to me, and also, in part to imagine the space of someone new. The man who would be the kind of best friend that Drew was to me. A man who could share in that sacred space.
Last weekend, after three long years of holding this space, that very thing happened. I took Mike out to the cemetery while he was visiting from Ohio. I cannot describe how surreal this felt. It was not like a collision, but more like these two worlds infusing into one other... softly, gently, like two colors of smoke dancing around me... neither one hindering or invading upon the other. It was so surreal in fact that he and I were both surprised I was not for a moment upset.
After a few minutes looking at his headstone together, I sat down in my usual place... and I asked Mike to sit beside me. We leaned our backs against Drew's headstone together. And there in the place of so much pain... there in the place I have run to for three long years on my darkest days... there in the place where I was broken... was a beginning. Something beautiful. Something hopeful. Something full of light and joy and love. With someone who could share that sacred space with me. I suppose this is how it is to begin again. We will anchor our backs in the past and set our eyes upon the fields of tomorrow... and they will never be left behind.