When my husband and I were ‘new’, and so full of love for each other, he would caution me that this aspect of our relationship, the euphoria and the intensity, would change. “It won’t always feel like this,” he would say. Extremist that I am, my heart opened and softened by his attentiveness, I did not believe it for a moment. I had found, finally, the love of my life, I thought, and the boundless love I felt for him would remain, and express itself, always, in exactly this way.
But, as with so many things, Stan was right. Our relationship shifted. We became more comfortable with each other, and able to focus on other parts of our lives. We grew to understand each other’s rhythms and ways. We learned each other’s triggers and soft spots. We shared past and present joys and sorrows. We learned how to live life, not gazing, constantly, into each other’s eyes, but hand in hand, and facing the world. Together. Our relationship changed. It deepened. It grew, and developed, and got better, with the passage of time.
We didn’t have enough time together. Only three and a half years. I so wanted to grow old with him by my side, to enrich our relationship as we aged. As the first anniversary of his death nears, I grieve, not only for him, but for us, and for all that we could have been.
This, too, shall pass. He would say that to me, often, in many different ways. He had a wisdom and a knowing that came from somewhere beyond this mundane existence. His wisdom came, not only from years of practise and formal study, although he did that, too. It came from his life experience, his willingness to be open to what that experience had to teach him, his ability to dig deep, and reflect. I appreciated all those aspects of him, when he was alive. But I see them more clearly, now, as I come to know him in a different light.
Our relationships with our loved ones continue to shift and to grow, even after their deaths.
As my relationship with him changes, and I integrate him into the new life I am taking on, my relationship with the house that we shared has also begun to shift. When he first died, I was adamant that I would remain here, where he was, where we were, together, forever. I made all the arrangements to assume the mortgage, as a widow, as the house was only in his name, when he died. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. I wanted to be surrounded by his things, in the midst of his community, comforted by his spirit.
But recently, I have begun to notice a shift in my feelings. It is difficult for me, sometimes, to live where he was, where we were, together. It is so painful. I see him walking down the steps, one at a time, in the evenings, after his bath. When I come in from work, I still want to call for him, and tell him I’m home. I remember sitting with him, on this sofa, the last night of his life. I am immersed in him, every moment, when I am in this house. Sometimes I use the noise of the television and the distraction of internet to escape the constant onslaught of memories. Sometimes it is just too much. And all that distraction is not healthy for me, either. Sometimes I feel imprisoned by this place.
Yet the thought of letting go of it is also excruciatingly painful. What if I move somewhere else, and I lose him? What if I can’t find him anymore? I tear up just thinking about it.
This weekend, I gathered with my sangha at a retreat centre south of here. It was a beautiful setting, and the sun warmed my face as I walked amongst the fields of buttercups and dandelions. Away from the home we shared, freed, for a moment, from the visions and memories, I felt a sense of peace.
He was present, too, at the retreat, with all of our sangha friends. We remembered him, and collected money for the fund set up in his name. People gave generously in tribute to him, and to carry on the work that he had begun to implement, at our centre. I felt his presence among us, and I knew that, had he been alive, we would have attended this retreat, together. But the memories were not so overwhelming, and constant. I was able to breathe, and relax, and reflect on how I am to carry on, in this life, on my own. And I began to consider the possibility of selling this house.
Yet, when I arrived home, I felt, too, a sense of comfort and peace. I was happy to be back. I made myself a warm drink and thought of him. I tidied up, and talked to him, as I often do, at night. Then I went to bed. Our bed.
I don’t know, yet, what the future holds. I know that, if I am to stay here, I need to make some changes, and make it
my own. It has been left virtually untouched since the morning we left here, together, for Gavin’s funeral. I haven’t had the heart to alter it.
I am not going to make any rash decisions. There is so much to consider. But it feels good to be open to the possibility of change, to not hold hard and fast to my earlier, rigid stance. I am changing. My relationship with him, and with our house, is changing.
All things change. And this, too, shall pass.