Somehow I thought life would get easier as I got older, but it has not. The heartbreaks and challenges facing me have become exponentially more difficult as I climb the ladder toward the sky, as if I had enrolled in an accelerated college course that never lets up, never offers a diploma. Yeah, yeah, I know. That’s life. Sheesh.
There were good times this year of course, but the difficult times have been overshadowed, as if that Sumerian demon Gozer, in the form of the deceptively friendly Stay Puft Marshmallow Man who wreaks havoc in Ghostbusters, showed up to destroy the good memories I had of 2015, leaving behind a gooey, sticky, flavorless mess. It takes heaps of my marshmallow brain to remember those good times. They’re there, but oh what a messy ordeal to summon them!
Earlier in the year the storm of my grief over losing my husband to dementia cleared and drew me back to my writing desk, from which I had been absent for two years, to continue work on my book about the experience. For that I am grateful. Hallelujah!
Then just as I began working with an editor and preparing to publish a short version of my book, an old childhood trauma I didn’t know existed rose up, smacked me in the face, ripped me to shreds, and threw my limp and nearly lifeless body into a deep, cold dungeon. I found myself keeping company with the darkest night of the Dark Night of the Soul I could never have imagined or anticipated.
My world and everything I had based my life on no longer existed. The cosmic rug had been pulled from under me, and I plunged deeper into the darkness. Everything I thought I understood about my life was a lie. I saw how I had lived my entire life so far based on a fallacy, which to my thinking rendered everything I had ever aspired toward, accomplished, planned, felt, lived, or thought throughout my lifetime void. No good. Untruths, all of it. I sat dumbfounded, in shock. All I could do was bear witness as my bewildered psyche froze, cracked, and finally toppled, giving in to the most violent storm it had ever experienced.
Nothing of me was left. I looked for traces of who I was and couldn’t find any. I was no one and I was nowhere. There was no more me, and it was frightening. My only choice was to sit through it and let it be, not knowing if it would ever be different or if I would ever be again, mourning my life, angry with how it had been, how it was, wondering how the hell to get out of the dungeon.
Charles C. West said, “We turn to God for help when our foundations are shaking, only to learn it’s God who is shaking them.” Yep, it was like that. That’s what happened. The universe did a number on me. Just like that. I don’t know what propelled me onward through that crisis, but somehow, out of the darkness release came, eventually. The traumatic memories were filed in the proper drawers of my brain, and I was liberated. Whole once again. A more determined, focused, confident me, who takes no more crap and doesn’t care if you know it.
But there’s more.
So, as if the universe knew there must be a marshmallow frosting on every cake, now it reminds me of this–an anniversary with a zero in it.
Today, December 18. If my husband had lived, we’d be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. All year, I’d suspected this might be a hard year because of the memories this milestone would invoke. The dread of it has been simmering since last December but stepped back to allow the larger trauma to express itself first. Perhaps this made this anniversary easier on me.
Alan and I met on August 27, 2005. The next day he asked me to marry him, and I wondered what took him so long to propose. It must have been written in the ancient cosmic texts that we were to be bonded that year. We were the love of each others’ lifetimes. We were married on December 18, 2005. Nine months later, in September 2006, he was diagnosed with dementia. He made his transition to the Great Love in the Sky on July 26, 2011. We were together less than six years.
I have only one thing to say for having known him and having loved him, for having been put through the nightmare of being with him during his illness and death. That one thing is…Halle- freekin-lujah!!!
Although dementia took him, dementia also gave me the opportunity to love him in a way I had never loved before–totally and completely, generously, unselfishly, just love, with no judgments, no complaints.
Loving and grieving for him transformed me. Through him I discovered the scope and resilience of the human spirit. I saw how gratitude from below and grace from above attract and interconnect with each other. I learned that love remains when all else is lost. I came to know how we can be joyful in anger, happy in sadness, patient in uncertainty.
But above all, I learned yes. Yes. Just yes. Yes to all of it. Yes to our time together. Yes to our pain and suffering. Yes to love and loss and surrender and gratitude. Yes to the joy and the laughter and the bond we share. Yes to our love. Yes to our spirits now dancing, intermingling in the Great Love in the Sky. Yes to whatever comes up in life. Yes to the ordinary nature of miracles.
To honor Alan and all the experiences of life, here are three of my favorite performances of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, the first by Leonard Cohen himself. If you’re inclined, tell me your Hallelujah story or post your favorite cover of the Leonard Cohen classic in the comments. I’d love to listen to them.