when love is singing up and down the alley,
without a collar. -Helene Johnson
As we walked together along the shore, Cole found a piece of blue sea glass that Maya proclaimed to be 'very rare'. I added that sea glass is actually broken glass that has been smoothed down by the ocean itself. Starting off as discarded trash, the waves of the ocean, the tumbling of sand and sea, create the smooth frosted glass we held in our hands.
Nature is teeming with allegory. Behind every creature and sunset there is a greater truth waiting to be unearthed. The message of the sea glass, for instance. I rolled it in my hand and remembered the girl I used to be before I met Paul. How the hopeful parts of me rose up to meet him; hesitant to believe that this gift was meant for me alone. How his friendship came and eroded some of the sharp edges of doubt and distrust. How loving him changed me and, met with his consistent acceptance and grace, made me softer. Starry-eyed wonder, my falling in love with Paul.
There is a snapshot of the two of us, laboring in the hospital with Maya. I had been delicately advised to visit the bathroom because apparently (and no one thought to tell me this before labor) when you are pushing out a child you might expel other, less dignified, matter. So the picture shows me, on the toilet, and Paul leaning in, our heads together. I remember word for word what he was saying to me, "I'm sorry about my breath. I had onions for lunch". And I looked at him, raggedly incredulous and laughingly muttered, "Paul, I am going to the bathroom. In front of you. I don't care about your breath!" Our marriage conceived an ease I had not experienced before. His love had freed me to be myself with full disclosure of the best and worst of me.
The extensive route his love traveled has left behind an emptiness that continues to cripple me. But the irony is this: were it not for the depth of that love, I could not miss him as I do. The challenge now is to embrace equally the stinging pain of loss and the exquisite gift of love. I had hoped the pain would run its course; now I know suffering and joy must find a civil way to coexist.
As I cried aloud one night this summer over dinner with our good friend Sarah, she asked a question I revisit often. "Heidi, If God had told you in advance that Paul would die when he did, would you have chosen to walk this road with him"? What I answered then is the same answer I would give today. Absolutely. I cannot advocate the type of reckless careening into love which marked my earlier relationships. But I can say assuredly that even safe, just as you are kind of love, requires risk. It takes courage to fully unveil ourselves to another person, but what reward could be greater?
Would I choose it again, knowing what I know now? There's simply no question. Loving him was the best thing I've ever done. I am immeasurably better because he loved me.