So last month, June 14th, was my one-year anniversary with Nick, my new love. My new beginning. My “next great love story.” I never know how to refer to us, but thats another post for another time. I dont like the term “chapter two”, because he deserves way more than a chapter, as did my dead husband Don. But back to the point …….
I just returned from a mini-road trip (2 overnights in the Berkshires and then Sturbridge Mass), which was Nick’s anniversary gift to me, taking us on this getaway which kicked off with seeing James Taylor in concert at Tanglewood, on the evening of July 4th. We had lawn seats, which was so much fun and such a cool vibe, walking through the wooded path with our cooler of picnic food, blanket, lawn chairs, and excitement; as we found and chose our place on the lawn near the stage. James Taylor has a voice that brings me back to nostalgia – back to childhood days and innocent times and being back in high school with old friends. I expected his music to be a bit emotional maybe for me. I did not expect the grief tsunami of triggers that happened toward the end of the concert. I did not expect the intensity and severity of these emotions to come on so quickly and suddenly. I did not expect that, even after almost 7 years into this, grief can still take the reigns and take full control and attack you full-force without your consent.
It was toward the end of the concert, about 4 or 5 songs from what would be the last one. We were sitting in our lawn chairs, in the dark humid night, with thousands of others, loving and basking in the music of this talented man. It happened during the song “Fire and Rain”, a classic for any Taylor fan. The song is about his childhood friend, Suzanne, who died by suicide, and Taylor’s reaction to it. It is also about his own struggles in life with addiction. As he sang this song, I noticed HE was getting emotional, and his voice cracked slightly when he sang the line: “I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend – but I always thought that I’d see you again.” Suddenly, the tsunami hit. My heart started burning with intense sadness, and a furiously fast flash of music-related memories of me and Don started blinking through my mind, all at once, one following the next and the next. Don strumming his guitar in our apartment. Seeing Paul McCartney together in concert, twice. Seeing Fleetwood Mac together. Being in our friends recording studio doing a recording of me singing and Don playing lead guitar on “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith. Sitting on our living room couch and playing CD’s for each other. Talking to him that first night in that music chat room.
As James Taylor sang again the line: “thought I’d see you one more time again….”, it suddenly hit me, as if it had never ever hit me before that moment. I will never see Don again. He will never hear more music. He won’t go to a concert with me again. He won’t play his guitar or buy a new record or smile warmly listening to me sing. Our connection was through music, and music was such a huge part of who Don was. My face turned hot as I grappled with the reality that Don would never experience a night like this beautiful night Nick and I were having right now. I felt more and more panicked and scared at the high level of my own sadness, as we began to pack up to leave the concert behind us. As we walked down the path back to our car, Nick asked me: “Are you okay?” I said: “I don’t think so. I don’t know. ” I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath as we stopped walking and I blurted out: “Don won’t go to any more concerts ever again. It’s so unfair that he doesn’t get to have magical nights like this anymore. It’s not fair that he has to be dead forever.” We stood along the path and Nick held me while I cried into his shoulder. There was nothing to be said in that moment. Just hugs.
Later, back at our hotel room, we sat on the bed and talked about grief and loss and death and those nasty triggers that happen right when you’re in the middle of living. We talked about energy and what we believe and don’t believe and might believe, and we talked about our thoughts on forever love and how it transcends death. We talked about the fact that in less than 2 weeks, it will be the 7-year death anniversary of Don. (July 13) We talked about how I will be at Camp Widow on that day, and how my book which is finally finished and published, will be on sale at the bookstore there, for the first time ever. We talked about recognizing that tonight was OUR very first concert together, and maybe that’s why the experience was so emotional for me, since it was the first time I was at a big music concert with someone who isn’t Don. We talked about how I am endlessly surprised by grief, by the forever-ness of grief, and how it will never, ever go away. “But neither will the love”, said Nick. ” He held me some more as I cried some more about Don being dead forever, and eventually we settled into other things, like laughter and kisses and snacking on watermelon cubes. Life went back to life again, and the tsunami had passed.
But I realized something. This grief thing is really NEVER going to go away. Not ever. It will be there after 7 years, and then after 8 and 9 and 13 and 20 and 25 and 38 years. On some random day way in the future, something weird and unexpected will trigger me, and the grief tsunami will pound waves into me once again, leaving me breathless and soaked with tears. Right in the middle of living life, grief will show up. I have to remind myself that the reason for this is simple – grief is evidence of great love. And if great love lasts forever, then so does grief. When those grief tsunami’s hit full-force, I just have to hunker down and ride them out. I will never stop living or enjoying life because of the grief monster showing up trying to ruin everything. I will move through the intense and tough emotions, while reminding myself over and over, that every painful grief moment, is evidence of a place where Love once lived, and lives on still, forever.