Saturday, August 02, 2014

August 2: First Kiss... Last Kiss

Joan & Robert line dancing, 2001
Thirteen years ago today, I kissed Robert for the first time.

Six years ago today, I kissed Robert for the last time.

Sometimes I think that he chose to die on the anniversary of our first kiss, so that I could soften the memory of his death with the memory of our first kiss. But as vivid as that first kiss is is my mind, as clearly as I still feel the magic of the moonlight on the first night we dared to touch, these memories don't soften the loss -- or the harshness of remembering how this gentle, loving, good man suffered from a painful cancer.

On this anniversary, I keep writing sentences and deleting them. I could write in my journal instead, and every word would stay.

Robert's last birthday, 2007
But I'm not just writing for myself here -- I'm writing for you, my community of readers, and many of you have suffered your own losses, many fresher than mine. Some of you are with the person whom you love, and you can't imagine how you could survive losing your beloved. Others have been alone for a very long time. Some of you are losing someone now.

So what would be of use and of interest to you?

Here are some things that I've learned over the six years:

1. It does get better with time. Everyone told me that, and frankly, I couldn't imagine it during the first years. My heart and gut had been sliced into pieces, the elephant kept stomping on my chest, and the most important person in my world was gone. How could this possibly get better? But it did.

2. We are remarkably resilient. We survive. We learn to laugh again. We feel the life force within us filling us with possibility.

3. We gradually find ourselves able to connect with new people. Many of us learn to love again. No, I haven't fallen in love again, but believe it or not, I feel more open to that possibility than I ever would have predicted. I am able to connect with men now, and that feels good.

4. We can find our beloved in our world if we look and listen. Sometimes I practice being really quiet and watching nature around me. Then a bird swoops close, alights on a branch, and sings. I like to imagine that Robert sent me that bird.Or that iris that I spot on one of my walks that looks like the one in the kimono painting he created for me for one birthday.

5. We carry within us the best of the person whom we loved. I'm not religious, and I don't know whether there's an afterlife. But I do believe that the special lessons we learned from our beloved, the ways we grew that would not have happened without this person, these are the ways that our beloved continues to live. And when we pass those lessons on to someone else, this is immortality.

If you lost a loved one, I invite you to share what you've learned since that loss that might help others.





(If you haven't read Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty -- my first senior sex book which narrates our spicy love story, learn more here.)

5 comments:

  1. Dear Joan, your strength and soulfulness resonate deeply from this essay. I Am very spiritual (not religious - there's a big difference) and I have seen enough "clues" that prove to me the existence of life after death, and yes, a heaven where we will reunite with love ones who have passed, including pets! When every single renowned psychic provides evidence, and says the exact same thing (after speaking with the dead) I have to pay attention. Thank you, Joan...for sharing your most vulnerable Self. Much Love to you! From Ellen N.

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  2. Dear Joan, Thank you. I've come to love and admire you in the past few years. I am both religious and spiritual, but don't believe in a supernatural god and all that. Still we do go on after death, not as many would wish it, but in the lives of all whom we have touched and who have touched us. Robert does live in you--he inspired some of your most inspired writing and thinking. And you live in the the lives of so many of us who have learned from you.

    In another sense too; every particle which makes up our bodies, minds and selves is a "child" of the particles that were present at the Big Bang and will be present thoughout the future. That is a very spiritual reality. Love, David

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  3. I was a novice priest for 12 years; as a retired clergyman I've been to and done many a funeral. My partner and I (7 yrs married) talk about how we will approach being alone; letting go; starting over, letting the other die. As the Russians say: The Last Kiss.

    Dating 5 years 54-59 two women I dated then have since died (one was murdered by a lover; one died of cancer) and one is dying now.

    We simply have to address these things as older lovers, no? You, Joan, are leading the way again.

    I dated a widow of five yrs back then who's husband's ashes were in the house somewhere (she wouldn't say) and she tried so to let go; and we parted. His eyes watching played a part.. Not sure she ever dated again after me and her friends had nudged her so to give it a go. Not easy.

    Harder for me was living with a dead marriage, fantasizing about God taking one of us out, fearing to say then the D word. Glad I did.

    I'm in no way a Mormon but I'm thinking I won't be surprised if I have three wives in heaven. Not sure I want to have sex with them all however.

    Be brave. Love again. I say. I tell my wife even now to please grieve and then find another lover. Sooner the better. She promises me she will. And, if I get Alzheimer's? I've asked to take a lover before I'm gone; and to just not tell the priest.

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  4. Hello Joan,

    I lost my soul mate less than a year ago, and your post has given me hope that things may still get better with time. I almost didn't respond to your request that we share things we've learned since the loss because I didn't feel like I'd learned anything of value, but maybe that's not true. On the chance that it could help others, here are a few things:

    1. Journaling can be extremely therapeutic, even if the entries make no sense. Being able to pour out all the anger, guilt, and other negative feelings without being judged or having to worry about scaring off a friend over it is healing. My personal conclusion after feeling how I've changed through journaling is that pain *has* to be expressed somehow before we can move forward.

    2. If the mind has nothing to dwell on but the loss, unhealthy habits can develop very quickly. Throwing yourself into a project, any project, can help a lot. I started with making a quilt of Alan's old flannel shirts not long after he died, and though I cried through most of its making, when I was done there was comfort in the feeling that I'd created something pretty in the face of destruction. That gave me strength to tackle the task of finishing the book we were writing together when he died, which makes me feel like I'm doing something *for* him. The projects need to be balanced by allowing yourself time for tears and the doing-nothing-but-grieving though, or else you wind up just delaying the grief... and it WILL have its time.

    3. Acceptance is a major key to healing from a loss. Things do not "get back to normal" because normal as we know it no longer exists. It's a far better expenditure of our energy to accept this, and to look at what we have left and allow a period of growing into a new norm.

    4. I completely agree with numbers 4 and 5 on your list. We never really lose them. We just have to "see" and feel them in other ways now.

    Hope something in all of this mess I've written helps someone :)

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    Replies
    1. Michele, what a beautiful response. Thank you. You started out thinking you hadn't learned anything of value. I assure you: you have, and your willingness to share it will help many others.

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