Today, like so many others, is already overflowing with goodness, kindness… and yes, I say that as a recent widow. I am not a Pollyanna, although I get it, I probably sound like one at times… I think I may be the exact opposite of Polly. I know it’s almost impossible to see yourself accurately, but I see myself as very rough-and-tumble, very jerzey, hard around the edges. Heart o’ gold inside, but damn, it’s DEEP inside lol. But I think it’s because of all my tumbles in various dark alleys and side streets that I have eyes for the good in these tough days. I’ve already seen the dark up close and personal, so now I’m on the lookout for goodness always, and baby those wondrous clouds today? They were all for me… though I don’t mind sharing.
I’ve been home for a few days now from the jerzey trip. Went up for a week to bring Paul’s ashes home to family, to honor him with the surf community at the paddle out, and to attend a dear friend’s wedding. I got to see people who know me and my story, who know my kids and my man and our history, and it was more than good. It was deeply healing and wonderful. I cried, I laughed, and oh baby, did I eat!! Periodic jerz is good for the soul, not so much for the belly. But even that is good, that self-indulgence when you need comfort the most. All that to say, it did me a world of good.
Coming home was just as good, arriving back to the beauty of Floridee, medicine itself to me always. My son and I stopped and got tested in Jax on our way home so I already knew I’d spend the first few days by myself. Solitude felt right to me, quietly taking it all in… It’s weird, I always wondered what it would feel like to have a doctor deliver terrible news to me or my loved one. I wonder about weird things, pretty much everything. But here’s the thing: it doesn’t feel like you’d think it would at all. Because you can’t believe it, it’s too surreal. Especially with your strong man standing next right next to you, looking all handsome and all… your rock. I had one moment in the car driving by myself when reality slid past the centurions, and the panic had me instantly hysterical. But most of the time, that day and in the months that followed, the brain refused to fully comprehend. It’s too terrible, and as long as he’s here, his presence refutes it all. Even as he grows thinner and weaker, you’re able to somehow sidestep it, give it a wide girth.
Then you spend six days in hospice saying goodbye to his still, sleeping form and even still it’s not real. Reality may be a little more solid than when you were at home, but not by much. Early Thursday evening he breathes his last, and you cling to his body… you try to fight leaving him at the end, hanging on and on for that last touch… to push back that dark, dark truth… And strangely, even then, when you and your son go home without him, it still isn’t completely real. The weeks and months pass and you somehow calmly tell the woman at the insurance office to remove him from the policy, you disconnect his phone… and STILL it’s not really happening, is it? It can’t be.
But damn. Then you wake up one morning and you have to go to his paddle out. Where his ashes will be spread. Shit just got REAL. No more avoiding. But I was focused on breathing while sobbing in a mask, and being present to so many who greeted me lovingly on the beach with masks AND sunglasses (now I’m REALLY confused!). Trying to take in the many glorious kindnesses of the surf community and our friends and family in honor of this amazing man… trying to comfort my sobbing granddaughter… trying to accept what my eyes were telling me was happening right before me. I gotta tell the truth, driving away from all that reality was good. Well, not good. Just a relief. Sitting with girlfriends and crying and drinking and laughing… that needed to happen. I probably shouldn’t tell that part. Only readers who have suffered a visceral loss will get what I mean there… but hey, why write if not to tell the truth? And come on. Girlfriend power.
Having a few days before seeing people has been good. And now, finally, I get it. It really happened. And I’m feeling all the feels but they’re not crushing me with their immediacy. Jake and I were talking this morning and I said, “I’ll be right back, I gotta go cry.” Went in my room, shut the door and let the tears flow. Because yes, now I really get it. I saw the wind take Paul’s ashes and blow them across the waves he loved so very much. It happened in real time. He is gone, and I take in his absence with each breath.
But that’s not all of the story. Is anything really all of the story? Two wonderful childhood friends of Paul kind of came alongside us in the last year of his life in the most wonderful way. It was absolutely amazing, they became like ministering angels to us. Sweetness after sweetness, and their support was so encouraging. I was especially touched by it because I’d never even met them and yet they took it upon themselves to care for us in very meaningful ways… reminding me always that goodness still existed. The darkness we faced could not ever completely shut out the light.
Early on they’d sent two gift certificates for massages for us. SO thoughtful. Unfortunately Paul’s pain levels made it impossible for him to use, and Covid knocked it out for me. But this week I’d taken TWO 16 hour car trips, losing a night’s sleep each time. Once I got my negative test results a message shone before me like a quivering desert mirage. This amazing gift was exactly what I needed when I needed it.
As Heather worked on me today, I felt the obvious relief of her strong hands meeting my knotted muscles, but there was something else happening. Something significant that went past my musculature and into my spirit, just as tattered as my back and neck, maybe more so. I had explained the tiniest bit about how we received the gift certificates when she asked, and of course had to mention the ankle, recently broken and sprained. As she worked her magic I began to realize she was doing more than massaging; she was pouring into me. I’d never met her before but I knew she was intentional in the way she was ministering to me, and I trusted it. I opened up my heart to receive it. My expectation is that Love wants to heal us, that Love will find a way. So if it unexpectedly shows up in a massage studio who am I to argue? I gave myself over.
Turns out she is also a writer and an actor so we chatted a bit at the end about the arts, and I left her studio renewed and refreshed. Grateful. The word of the day, of the year. This relentless monster of a year, the year that ate the world. Still, gratitude prevails… because goodness shows up. Goodness trumps Trump. (Couldn’t resist). Here’s the thing. I believe in angels. I believe that Judy and Sandy sent those two gift certificates months ago and Goodness knew that Paul couldn’t use them, but also knew that I’d be a wreck, a sleepless hunched over shell of a girl… and Goodness knew that Heather would end up taking the appointment, a masseuse trained in Reiki, a human trained in listening beyond words…. Goodness put the day together. Posted those clouds to drive me home… home to the house that Paul built. The house where Love lived… and still lives. He just brought along his happy pals Serendipity and Kindness. I’ll go into the bedroom and cry a few times today. But like I said, it’s not the whole story. It never is, is it? Look up, yo.