A lesson in love

Airports are places where I can get lost in a crowd. Such self-imposed isolation produces an introspective mind, and so I write. Yes, this will be about Allie and my grieving.

I share this not because I have some maudlin need to vomit my emotions all over you, but because I believe life and death are shared experiences. If the wisdom of the crowd means anything, it’s our ability to learn from each other, rather than entirely through history, tradition and what the elites tell us to learn. This is basic postmodernism, and the PoMo’s mantra — I experience, therefore I understand — includes the experiences of those close to us, be they our friends, family or tribe.

And so I share, in the fervent hope that somebody, somewhere needs to know what I know, and that this knowledge will become a part of the web’s long tail, to be shared by others across the landscape of time.

Let me begin this journey with an axiom I have come to believe: Love is a one-way street, flowing from the source of life itself through us to others. God is love and God is life, so love and life are the same. The heart may beat, but what provides the juice? That is life. That is love. That is God.

Nothing about love’s real deal is self-directed, although we certainly gain much. I liken this to a garden hose. We are the hose, the spigot is the source of life/love, and the nozzle is our method of spreading this to others. When all are functioning, all is well. We know contentment and serenity, not because we “seek and find” it, but because we’re giving it away to others and receiving a fresh load from the source of everything.

If we close the nozzle, that which is in us stagnates. We may run to the spigot all we wish in search of a fresh flow, but it can give us nothing until we give away that which we have. All of nature works this way. Only humankind has the authority to close the nozzle.

My love for my precious Allie is well documented here. I gave everything I had to us and our relationship, as did she, but the source of our contentment and the quality of our connection came not from what we received from each other but what we received from the source of all. That is the secret to happiness, not the extent to which we can manage our surroundings (and the people around us).

When she died, I was devastated. My whole world was yanked from underneath me, and I could find no peace. This is the way of grieving, as documented so well by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in the last century. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and ultimately Acceptance. How could you be gone? Why did you leave me? If I could only die too. Darkness and loneliness. These are the very real feelings that accompany a sadness so profound that words can’t do it justice.

All of these are self-centered efforts to protect that which is inside us, closing the nozzle, if you will. We circle the wagons, because we can’t stand the pain. We’re also terribly afraid and vulnerable at such times, and self-preservation takes center stage.

Allie’s sudden passing devastated her whole family in Lawrenceburg and many former co-workers, and I spent time hugging and holding them as well as receiving hugs and kindness. That’s the way we do things as a culture. We assemble together, because we find healing together.

But eventually comes the night, the empty bed, and the lonesome valley that we must walk by ourselves. This is where the real agony exists. No one to kiss me goodnight. That special warmth replaced by cold sheets. And then there are the thoughts and the whys and how comes, wild horses running through my mind that demand to be ridden, examined and experienced. I pray for morning, and sleep eventually comes.

A few days ago, I heard a song by Big Blue Hearts called “Lovin You.” The chorus spoke to my heart, “Lovin you is the right thing to do.” There it was! My answer.

One of the things that happened to me in the grieving process is that, in trying to protect myself from pain, I cut off all the joy that came with the outbound flow of love towards my Allie. After all, she was gone. How could I continue to love her? And isn’t shutting the door on that what it means by acceptance?

No. No. A thousand times no.

I love Alicia Faith, and I always will, and the extent to which I can acknowledge that and let it happen determines the quality and depth of my peace and serenity, because that’s the natural way of things. She may be gone — and I may be mad at her for going — but only I can block the love I have in my heart for her. Moreover, from a very real and practical perspective, loving myself is a big part of that. She helped teach me to love myself, and that, too, is a part of my healing.

And permitting myself to love Allie even though she’s gone is the secret to my wellness at this time. I also think it’s the key to my future — and especially any future relationships I might develop. Just because she’s gone doesn’t mean I have to “be” any different than I was when she was here. Discontent is directly proportional to the degree to which I fight the need to love her.

One older friend of mine who’d lost his wife of 55 years two years ago told me that I’m in store for many lonely months, but that eventually the pain will fade. This, I assume, is conventional thinking, and I certainly understand what he’s trying to tell me. But the truth is that nobody knows the pain I feel, nor could they possibly understand the joy I feel in my love for my Allie.

I’m neither naive nor a fool, and I know there are still rough days, weeks and months ahead. But I also know where to turn when I’m feeling down. I know that shutting out the pain also means shutting out the joy, and Allie wouldn’t want me to do that. She was my breath, and she remains the essence of all that’s worthwhile in me. Memories may fade with time, but I will always love her.

As I told people at the funeral, when the final sun sets and they write the book of love, Jesus will be chapter one. But chapter two won’t be Romeo and Juliet, Sleepless in Seattle or Doctor Zhivago. It’ll be Allie and Terry, two lost and tormented souls who found each other late in life and never took a moment of their short time together for granted. She believed in me, and that gives my life purpose and reason to go on. I believed in her, too, and she knew that.

Here’s something very private that she wrote to me on January 2, 2005. This was my Allie:

Thank you Lord for your Terry, then and now, my husband, a beautiful wedding ceremony, he let me be princess for weekend and now a lifetime ahead. We get one day at a time and I’ve never been happier or more surprised and real curious about having a partner who’s not about to get out and shoot a standup. His Carmex kisses, Bible reading, coffee making, spooning me, feeding me, loving me back. It’s a first love, thank you God, the wait was worth it and now I’m going to make every hour of every precious day count and lay down at night with a heart of happiness, not what or who will I report in the morrow…
I hope you can understand the message here and are able to use it somewhere in your own life.

Comments

  1. Thank you. Thanks for the honor of receiving my comment. Thanks for sharing. Yeah, I get it and it makes sense and seems Truth. Brother, let me tell ya, I’m glad to meet you if only in this small way (and small text box ha ha).

    You seem extremely sane and wise. I hope you email me, even a short note, if time allows and the Spirit moves… if you visit my weblog you’ll see I’m holding back on being "real" to the anonymous public. I’m so glad you are not.

    In any case, best wishes.

  2. Thanks for posting this, Terry. Your transparency is becoming a lens for many other people, me included.

  3. My mind’s distracted and diffused
    My thoughts are many miles away
    They lie with you when you’re asleep
    And kiss you when you start your day

    Paul Simon, Kathy’s Song

  4. Steve Safran says:

    Beautiful, Terry. Beautiful words. Beautiful thoughts. Beautiful woman.

    Thanks for sharing some beauty with a world in dire need of more.

  5. Debbie Wilson says:

    Your heartfelt writing is so beautiful and it makes those of us that knew Alicia for a long time that much happier that she had at last found peace and happiness.
    Know that you continue to be in our hearts and prayers and we will never forget what a special person she was.
    You are so right to seek joy and know that greiving while still appreciating all that life has to offer do go together.
    My best,

  6. Of course; grief is about love, and nearly all of us need to learn more about love. Wonderful, thank you.

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