A few nights ago I went out with my girlfriends to celebrate our spring birthdays together. We saw a show, shared a meal and had lots of laughs, hugs and lots of love. It was a lovely night, a night in many ways I had to attribute to John.
I was a bit surprised to find myself whispering ‘thank you, thank you John’ as I walked by myself to the bathroom before the show. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for him, for him teaching me to seek out, plan for and expect there to be joy.
You see, in our first year of dating I had explained to him that my birthday was always couched between Mother's Day and lots of other May birthdays and because I am the planner in my family there was rarely an actual celebration for my birthday and certainly not one that I didn’t have to put some effort into. This caused my birthday to mostly go uncelebrated most years and that has really always okay with me because I am busy helping to celebrate others. However, this wasn't okay with John. So that first year he planned for an extravagant night out for my closest girlfriends and I. We went to a fancy dinner that he'd already paid for, allowing us to order anything we wanted and then simply leave- the wait staff had the best time with this! It was such a fun idea for them to get to be part of. Then we went to a show, that he had paid for already and had drinks and just celebrated our togetherness. To this day several of those ladies still say that was the best night out they had ever had. John made it magic for all of us.
What I realized that night as I was walking towards the bathroom was that I had re-created that night and that I have in the not so distant past continued to re-create many versions of that throughout this last year for myself and for those that I love, and I have John to thank for that, for teaching me that, for teaching me to seek out joy and to give joy generously.
I think as time goes by I worry I won’t remember John. That I won’t be able to recall his face or the scent of him, that I won’t be able to close my eyes and see his capable hands-strong and ready to help, any longer. I worry that he will fade away. And I don’t want to lose the parts of him that were so important, more important than his physical self, more important than his generous laugh or calm gaze. I want to keep the important parts of him with me, and in examining this I have to ask myself, did I learn what he had to teach me? And are those lessons still with me, are they folded into who I have become since he entered and then left my life? That is the most important question I have asked myself dozens of times since he died. What lessons did John have to teach me? And will I be able to learn them and then live them in a way that would make him proud?
As I sit here now thinking about my most recent wonderful night out with my friends I do think I have learned and folded that particular lesson into my daily life, in a way that is authentic to who I am. I think that is one way I have been able to keep John with me, one way he has not faded away.
As months march by, nearing three years since he died, that thought eases my heart some. It eases my heart to know that maybe some of the littler things I don't recall as vividly as I wish I did (and make no mistake that fact is very hard for me) but still the big things, the lessons, the deep thoughts, the love, they all remain in tack. Since he died, I have tried to live in a way John would want me to. Tried to live in a way he would be proud of, in a way he would be proud of me. I’ll admit I have failed many times, made many, many mistakes since he died as I stumbled over and over again just trying to get my bearings about me- a very hard task indeed when your heart is so terribly wounded.
Still, when I think of carrying him with me, when I think of trying consciously to keep and live into the important lessons he taught me I think he would be pleased. I realized that as I slid into my seat where for the next hour I laughed so hard I bent over with tears streaming down my face, next to four fantastic friends. In that moment I knew that John was right there with me and he was smiling because I was smiling. And in that moment he was proud of me, because in a time when I could've sought out sorrow, self-pity and anxiety, I instead sought out friendship, companionship and love - John was all those things and many more. I am so grateful for the lessons he taught me, it’s one more way to carry him forward and keep him near. And that continues to be part of my work now too, to seek out other lessons he taught and find ways to make them part of my life in a way that is authentic for me, knowing always that his examples will be there to be a touchstone and a reminder that he was real, he was good and he is not forgotten.
picture courtesy of-journey to the center blog