Twelve days ago, the love of my life, my husband Richard Cabe, died of brain cancer at home in hospice care. He died as he had lived: he was present, gracious and loving until the end.
After we sat in silent meditation/worship with his body, sending him on his way with mindful hearts; after we washed his body and consigned him to the care of the funeral home folks on the way to the CU Medical School to be used for research, our little group of family and friends walked over to a favorite local restaurant for brunch, as has been our Sunday habit for a long time.
We ate, toasted Richard, and laughed and cried. Then we walked home.
So it’s gone in my new life without the man I loved and lived with for almost 29 years: Though the seemingly endless rounds of official phone calls and filling out forms, the cleaning and organizing, answering cards and emails–through all the word generated by any death, gracious, graceful, or otherwise, I’ve made a conscious effort to live well, mindfully and with thankfulness for the life I have.
Each day I get up before dawn, measure out the whole grains and organic dried fruits for my hot breakfast cereal, clean the wood stove and make a fire, and do yoga to greet the day, centering myself in this landscape, at home.
Each day I think my love for helping design and build this house which enfolds me in the work of his hand and heart. Each day I look for some grace note.
Each day I also consciously do something to bring joy to my life, honoring Richard’s memory and our shared love of this numinous blue planet and the lives it supports.
And each day I put hands to keyboard and write, even if only for an hour.
Last Sunday, I went cross-country skiing with my friend Lisa. Neither of us had gotten our cross-country skis out in more than a year, so getting ready for our jaunt around the neighborhood golf course meant dusting off skis and poles, and searching for gaiters and other gear.
When Lisa walked over, skis on her shoulder, and confessed that she had completely forgotten how to operate her bindings, we spent a few hilarious minutes of random poking and prying until the bindings popped open.
Then we passed a glorious hour at the golf course schussing on fresh snow, our skis swishing and our legs moving in a rhythm that has always seemed to me close to what it must feel to be able to cup wings on air and take flight. We skied past a hundred or so Canada and cackling geese, roosting with bare feet on the snow, past fox tracks and pounce marks, past quiet houses and noisy dogs.
Does it seem wrong to look for joy a less than two weeks after my love’s death? Perhaps I should be doubled over, wracked with sobs, or curled up under the covers, eyes shut to the world.
That’s not for me. I think the best way to honor the love Richard and I worked hard to grow over nearly 29 years, to honor his love for all life, large and small, common or obscure, beautiful and grotesque; his attitude of lovingkindness toward the earth, and the smile that touched everyone who met him is to practice living well on my own.
By “living well,” I mean living in the spirit that we shared: living with my heart outstretched as if it were my hand–an attitude of love, kindness, joy, generosity, and appreciation for the gift of each moment.
And I mean writing. Every day.
What does living well mean to you? Why? Write that down!