Since You’ve Been Gone

Dear Clarence,

It’s a year today since you moved out of this life and into the next. I remember your calmness when you left the world. The way your eyes twinkled at the end. Your words were full of love, and we surrounded you with everything we had, holding onto you until the last moment. Until we had to let you go. We had talked about what might lie on the other side of death, and what you might find there. Your last words were, ‘I hope I get to go for a swim.’ I sure hope you did, honey.

In case you don’t know, here’s what’s happened since you’ve been gone. I stumbled my way through spring and went into the summer full tilt, handling my emotions by never pausing for a moment. Like a shark that has to keep swimming, I felt as though something terrible would happen if I stood still for even a moment. I got a little bit kooky about it, and you’ll be glad to know that the neighbors intervened in the kindest way. One day, I’d been working in the garden for twelve hours, when they suggested I take a break and head inside. I’m pretty sure that right then, I needed to be told what to do. The yard definitely benefited from my ongoing mania. I’ve been renovating, too, and joined a weight class, which you would love. And the new ER you worked so hard for is finally finished. I hear that it’s lovely.

Every first thing we do without you is hard. The kids coming home in the summer, all the birthdays, including yours. My first time in the canoe without you paddling behind me. First Halloween. First Christmas. And now, a whole new year in which you never lived for even a day. Do you know how strange that is? Things are happening around the planet, and it’s all a little scarier without your calm perspective.

I didn’t understand that I would have to be brave. I believed that the need for it would be over once your suffering had ended. But when you died, it felt like parts of my body had been cut away and the pain was going to kill me. It didn’t, and that was hard, too. Because then I had to learn how to live without you. Which sounds like a line from a cheesy love song, but is actually true.

I didn’t really understand the forever-ness of it. Like, maybe you’d pop your head around the corner and say, ‘Just kidding. I’m still here!’ But that happens only in my dreams. Every day, those of us left behind arm ourselves with pep talks, with friends, and with plans for a future that does not include you. Every now and then, a wave of grief comes out of nowhere and knocks me off my feet. But grief has to win sometimes, because that’s part of this journey that has no map.

We’re celebrating you today in Banff, Clarence. We’re going to illegally scatter a tiny bit of your ashes somewhere near the hotsprings, one of your favourite places, and then read a poem by Leonard Cohen. It’s beautiful, so I’m going to print it out here. It’s called Dimensions of Love.

Sometimes I hear you stop abruptly
and change your direction
and start towards me
I hear it as a kind of rustling
My heart leaps up to greet you
to greet you in the air
to take you back home
to resume our long life together
Then I remember
the uncrossable dimensions of love
and I prepare myself
for the consequence of memory
and longing
but memory with its list of years
turns gracefully aside
and longing kneels down
like a calf
in the straw of amazement
and for the moment that it takes
to keep your death alive
we are refreshed
in each other’s timeless company

It’s from his latest poetry collection, The Flame, which I am in love with. Reading poetry helps.

After that, we’ll go for a swim in the hot springs. I’m going to imagine that somewhere across a thin divide, so very close to us, you’ll be having your own swim. You’ll be right beside me like you used to be, and even though I won’t see you, perhaps I’ll feel you there. And that will be its own kind of joy. Those moments when we celebrate you hold me together. So in future blogs, I still might make fun of your wardrobe like I used to. I might talk about the crazy things you did while you were here. And when I write those things, I’ll be telling you and everyone else another thing that’s true. I’m not ready to let you go.

9 thoughts on “Since You’ve Been Gone

  1. Janice

    I think you are amazing and have travelled this year better than most. Many times I am in awe at how well you have handled life through the hard times. Bravo, Judy! Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

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  2. Rella Dubie

    Thank you for these beautiful words Judy, I so needed to read this today, you had a beautiful relationship with your Clarence. My sisters and I lost our mom and sister within 10 days of each other in February, and I miss them terribly and we can’t believe their gone. Thank you again for this, I wish I could express myself as well as you did. God bless and take care love to all Rella Dubie.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. judithannepettersen Post author

      Thank you, Rella. I’ll be thinking of you in the coming months, and certainly over the next year. I wish no one else had to go on this journey, but I guess we all do at some time or other. For some of us, it happens sooner than we’d wanted it to.

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