“Close both eyes see with the other one. Then we are no longer saddled by the burden of our persistent judgments our ceaseless withholding our constant exclusion. Our sphere has widened and we find ourselves quite unexpectedly in a new expansive location in a place of endless acceptance and infinite love.” ~Boyle
I’m sitting on the edge of the tub in my Mom’s perfect bathroom fighting the impulse to find a tube of red lipstick and write “Two and a half Thanksgivings” across the mirror like an “SOS” signal. I think if I use bold block letters you’ll see the reflection from Heaven and save me.
I hear my name echo through the house, “Lynn! Lynn-ey! Lynnette!”
“I’ll be out in a moment,” I say. My voice is gentle. No indication that I can hardly breathe through this ambush of emotion.
Mom is 87 this year. A still beautiful German woman who on the inside is full of love and vulnerabilities, but the persona she presents to the world is one of kind sternness. I still get a kick out of this. There are rules we follow and those rules cannot be broken: Stay on schedule, work hard, put your lipstick on and keep a happy face, do not talk about troubles and when something awful happens, get over it and move on.
The truth is I’ve moved on beautifully, with the exception of family gatherings and holidays, when I am reminded that I engage in conversations about everything with everyone. Worse yet, I write about it. I barely remember makeup, never mind lipstick, make up my own schedule as I go and maintain my position as the baby of the family by challenging every single family rule.
It matters not that I am a grown woman, the mother of grown children, blessed with the wisdom of years and the imagination of a child. In this house, I am separated by a generation – the “happy accident” – and the rebel girl who was lucky enough to marry the Navy SEAL who kept me somewhat tame.
Since you’ve been gone, all bets are off.
I feel your presence next to me, your arm folding around my waist, your lips on my forehead. You whisper, “You’ve got this, babe. I’m right here.”
I glance at the clean mirror and feel slightly relieved that I did not make a mess I’ll have to clean up because, clearly, you can hear my thoughts.
On the other side of the door – out there – amid dueling older sisters, quirky nieces and nephews, a proper Beverly Hills Auntie and diverse guests, I am about listening and love, and I am truly grateful for the characters in my life.
In here I am looking for a rabbit hole to go down into and compose myself. I do not want to break the rules and disappoint my sweet Mom by announcing aloud that I cannot bear one more whispered conversation about my moving on, or the nonchalant way a neighbor tells me about the single man who lives next to so-and-so who would be happy to take me on. I laugh at this. Am I a project now? They say it with true love, backtrack into compliments and segue into stories of Thanksgivings past and your perfect turkey.
I smiled when my niece told the story of our Thanksgiving on Sunset Beach in Oahu, about the tables we set up in the driveway so that twenty of your Team brothers could come and share a meal. We did bonfires on the beach and breakfast the next morning. It’s a great story and a great memory until she adds, “Mom was always jealous of you and Steve’s perfect Thanksgivings. Not so much anymore, though.”
The entire room took a collective breath and became perfectly quiet as though something sacred had fallen off a shelf and shattered. All eyes were on me. I imagined they were waiting for me to break too.
This was your holiday. They know it, I know it, and it will never be the same now that you’re gone.
My aunt adjusted her cashmere sweater, clutched her pearls and broke the uncomfortable silence with, “You know darling Lynn, perhaps you should go on a singles cruise to the Italian Riviera. You are still lovely and I’m sure someone will have you.”
I may have said, “Perhaps…” aloud just before I excused myself to powder my nose.
I have a distinct memory of being in Gaeta and hearing my Italian friends talk about their newly widowed friend like she was past tense. “She’ll get fat now and walk around with sad eyes. It’s such a shame.”
“Why would you say such a thing?” I asked.
“Because this is truth,” they answered, “a widow carries her sorrow and we cannot be with her anymore and risk that death infects our men and we lose them too.”
In Italy, I thought this was a ridiculous and damaging superstition and I told you so.
Here, on the edge of the tub, I imagine my “sorrow” as though it’s mercury. I want it to slide off of me down into the tub and down the drain so I can leave this room and reenter the crowd of characters with a grateful heart.
I lean into your energy, let it fill me with courage, and reach for your hand. “Come with me,” I say.
I feel your lips against my neck. You say, “You are whole again, full of light, wisdom, sincere discernment and divine love. Let them be who they are because you know who you are.”
I believe you.
But when my sister’s voice reaches under the door, “Lynn, Lynn-ey, Lynnette…Wait until you see the perfect turkey. It might be better than Steve’s!”
I get up, put on my lipstick and write on my heart… I miss you. Come back. Find me.
Lynnette Bukowski © 2013
13 thoughts on “Gathering …”
Lynn, I don’t know appropriate words to comment, just emotions right now. Sometimes silence says it all, though.
I don’t believe I have ever wanted to reach out through cyber space and hug someone as much as I do right this second…. Bless You Lynn. Your Grace, in sorrow is a painfully beautiful thing to be a witness to.
I am thankful that you have been loved so deeply and so well, and that you share that love with others 🙂
Listening….thank you for sharing 🙂
Happy Thanksgiving my sweet friend. My “phone call” put in writing. 🙂
I’m not sure this is the right thing to say, but it keeps clamoring in my brain. You are so blessed. It’s a pity your family doesn’t appreciate how blessed you are. Move on? From what? Your memories that bring both joy and sorrow but all wrapped up in love? Move on from the love? Why? Move on from the loss? How? The loss will not go away in this life. Move on from the sorrow? It is evidence of how deeply you loved. It is already easing and ripening to mellower shades. My heart aches for your loss and at the same time celebrates the life you embraced with your whole heart. You haven’t given up on life. You are continuing on. You’re traveling alone instead of with a beloved companion and yet knowing he is still cheering for you and loving you. What a precious gift. Perhaps you will find someone else to love, but it will be different. Perhaps not. And I don’t know about you but I can hear Steve taking up the challenge… nothing will be better than Steve, because there is no one in the world ever before or ever again like Steve. There will only be different. Still good, but different. Perhaps this hit a little close to a sore spot today as I miss my furry children. I know it isn’t the same, but it’s as close as I’m able to touch. So, I’m shedding some tears and smiling through them and wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving. Please keep sharing the love and joy even when it’s shadowed. It is the darkness that gives depth to and appreciation for the light. God bless.
Judy, your words are exactly the right thing to say. Thank you for your passion and kindness. Truthfully, I was a bit unsure about posting this glimpse of my Thanksgiving because it deals with tender “family” issues. I love my family. And like so many other people in the world, my extended family drives me a little bit nuts. I posted this because I cannot be the only “youngish” widow who has to confront this painfully (wrapped in love) behavior from family and friends. I’ve found through Steve’s passing that many people have difficulty standing in the space of death without trying to fix “it” or “me” or do something to make themselves feel as though they helped, or at least tried to help. I have a heart for people who feel awkward around me because life is not the same now as it used to be. I’m okay with it because as you so eloquently state, without darkness there can be no light. Many blessings to you.
You don’t need to be “fixed.” But yes, I understand the struggle. So many have tried to “fix” me, refusing to understand (because it makes them uncomfortable) that I accept God’s plan for me isn’t in the usual way, so to speak. I confess: I grew tired of people trying to set me up with guys, because it only proved how much they didn’t know me at all. I think I found that more heartbreaking. These were people who loved me but didn’t understand what mattered to me. I reached the point where they’d ask me, “When are you getting married?” and I asked, “Are you proposing?” Funny, people stopped asking. 😉
I’m using that line from here on out, if you don’t mind. 😉
Please feel free. 🙂
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I think you’ve perfectly captured what it is to be a “youngish” widow at family gatherings and holidays…(and I was widowed even younger). People try, they love you, they miss your husband (not as intensely in the same way as you do but who could?), they mean well, they want you to be happy, they DO want to help….but….Sigh. Hugs to you, I always admire the way you move forward in life, with such sheer grace.
I hang on your every word, crying. What a marvelous writer you are and what a loss you’ve suffered.