Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fully Loved

In June 2008 my cousin Judy lost her husband of 41 years. Somehow I hadn't realized that the illness he was diagnosed with years ago was fatal but it was. Since his passing I had seen her only once, at the family sedar, in April 2009, where we did not have a lot of time to talk. In fact we have rarely had significant conversation time, though I have always been very fond of her.

Yesterday I drove to her house, upon arriving, we flittered from topic to topic in a vain attempt to update quickly. After a bit we settled down with some fabulous pizza and nice bottle of wine. This morning into afternoon, before other guests arrived, we continue our rambling conversation while tending to straightening, prepping food, and repotting plants when we saw we still extra time.

Judy knew her husband for 54 years, they graduated from the same high school. They did not marry immediately, in fact Judy met someone else whom she married and had her first son with. Clearly that marriage did not last all that long. She quickly reunited, I think that's the best way to describe it, with David and was with him all these decades.

My view of their relationship was very limited through my adolescence. Also given that I only saw them about twice a year at family gatherings I had no idea of the complexity, the happiness, the struggles, that made up their marriage. After David died she wrote a beautiful letter where I learned so many things about his life which made realize how much I lost not knowing him. He was always so quiet at families occasions, Judy so vivacious, busy, with a full laugh.

After this visit I am awed by the beauty of their marriage, though I imagine it may have been colored by grief so that it more rose than beige. Even so to be loved like that, for so long, must be an amazing experience. Longevity in relationships is not exactly something I excel at, my cynical nature, my restless soul, and my walls hold such things at bay. At least that's what I think it may be. Maybe I am just damaged, or maybe I haven't met that person that breach my fortress, or perhaps I have not figured to let someone in enough to love me that well.

"In many ways our last years together were among our happiest." How lovely is that. Knowing that this illness was fatal, going to appointments together, never knowing which bad turn might spell the end, and yet her view is that they were happy together. I suppose it's possible knowing that your time is limited, each day has a different scent, a promise of exuberance because it might be the last time you did that particular thing. To be able to say you know in your heart that for your mate, you were it, the smartest, the most clever, the sexiest - for four decades? How remarkable.

She asked me if I had heard of The 100 Things Challenge which I had not. In the past several years I have pared down extensively, especially with my last big move in March 2009. Judy's house (in fact each of the three she has owned and that I have visited) is filled with beautiful things. There are so many things to look at, to run your finger across, fabric that begs to be touched. I suspect that if I had her belongings I would have found it significantly more challenging to reduce the way I have because I have always lusted after her living spaces. In thinking about what she would give up, I imagine many of the things she would keep would be related to David, things they bought together or that he built for her. I think just those two parameters would easily take up half that goal of 100, if not more.

One of the tasks that she has struggled with was what to do with David's ashes. He had wanted them scattered in Muir Woods but in conversations prior to his death she said she didn't think she could do that. He told he really didn't care all that much really, that he wanted her to do what was best for her. She thought about burying them outside his workshop on their property but realized that she do so only in a format that allowed her to dig them back up if she ever moved. Her good friend said not to do it in that case. She finally came up with something that made the most sense to her. In the last five or so years Judy has been making art, decorative boxes, furniture, collage prints and so forth. She made a box, decorated with paints, gel films of photos in its interior, and topped with symbols of David's passions. It lives in her bedroom now. She has told her younger son that when she dies she wants to be cremated as well, to have her ashes mixed with David's so they will always be together. Beyond that she doesn't care what happens to the ashes, just that she rests with him. Recalling that conversation now I am tearing up at the depth of devotion, the solidarity that is conveyed by her sentiment. I am awed by their love, my only sadness is that I never know what was in front of me all those years.

1 comment:

Andi said...

What does it say about me that on some level I've always wanted to do make funerary art incorporating cremains. I think that the comingled cremains of your aunt and her beloved are a beautiful concept.