Monday, February 16, 2009

Valentine's Day without Robert

My first Valentine's Day since Robert died seemed to be going unexpectedly well -- a deep and stimulating phone conversation with a close friend, time alone reading and dancing in my exercise room, dinner out with a dear and delightful woman pal, excitement about feeling my life force emerging strongly.

Then I came home. Alone. Lit a candle. And started to cry.

I remembered Robert lighting a candle in the same candleholder I was using. I saw his dear hand lighting it, the hand that would touch me soon. I heard his soft voice, saw his smile. I wrote in my journal memories of seven years of Valentine's Days, especially the languid afternoons making love as daylight turned to evening and to night. Finally, even the candle would burn down, flicker, and go out as we held each other and continued to kiss in the dark.

Tears streaming, voice wailing, I put down my journal and picked up a book of poetry, American Primitive by Mary Oliver. A friend, Uta, had given it to me on Robert's birthday, 4-1/2 months after he died, with this inscription:

Dear Joanie,
She is one of Robert's favorite contemporary poets.
You are very special to me and when you read in this little book, Robert will be with you. He loves you very much.

I read the book as if for the first time, nature imagery delighting me, then phrases like "loss leans like a broken tree" spearing my heart.

I had to put down the book when I read this:

...Now you are dead too, and I, no longer young,
know what a kiss is worth.

(photos by Robert's son Mitch Rice)


  1. Your Valentine's Day blog was beautifully written. Your sadness is deep and that is natural, given the profound depth of the relationship...You needed to cry...You needed to wail.

    But even greater than your sadness, is the gift of Robert. A gift that continues to surround you with incredible miracles every day.

    Robert is not dead. His love and his energy live on within you and your wonderful work. You share and continue to share that gift again and again and again.

  2. I just caught this post of yours. I think the first year must be extraordinarily difficult. You can't help but think back to what was.


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