I knew October 5th through 12th would be emotional this year with Facebook reminders of last year’s Maui vacation 5 weeks before Rick’s diagnosis. I was hoping to avoid what one grief book refers to as ‘The 10 Second Heartbreak’; where while going about regular tasks the realization of spousal loss hits –hard– almost like the very first moments were! The ache comes back so fast and so strong it renders one incapable of breathing. I was hoping the happy, healthy vacation pictures would steer me toward gratitude that we were able to have such a wonderful last vacation.
But I did not expect what just happened. For a small space of time I had a childlike thought: “If we had never flown home it would always be October and cancer could only touch Rick in November.” It is only 9:30am and I have already had two moments of this “10 Second Fantasy” of ‘October Island’. I almost felt like swimming to Maui, to see if Rick was there.
But Rick is here, celebrating the memories with me, touching my heart. I made bread pudding yesterday and in testing the center, the still-wet knife had left a V shaped mark. Today I decided on a sweet sample with my morning coffee. When I removed the plastic wrap, I saw the buttery topping had settled into the knife mark and now a heart was greeting me. I smiled in acknowledgement to Rick and snapped a picture.
But I also was trying to keep myself a little in check because, after all, I had made the V-shaped mark, so did that make this heart a little less special?
Now the dog needed a walk so I abandoned the idea of a sweet and put the bread pudding back. As I walked the dog, I kept thinking about that heart- just when I needed it. I leaned into the fact that I was subtly feeling warmth & love pushing the sadness aside and started recalling bits of conversations Rick and I had just one year ago. More heart warmth!
Along the walk I noticed leaves in the colors of Autumn and found myself stopping to collect some especially colorful Callery pear leaves. It was from this same tree that I had found an autumnal red heart-shaped leaf just 11 days before but now I only saw leaves in yellow and orange. I felt a sense of hugging warmth almost like Rick was saying “That red heart on that day was just for you” with a slow smile. It was like Rick wanted to make sure I received all his ‘love notes’.
And then I had a sense of affirmation because I realized I was exercising my ‘optimism muscles’. I felt the old, familiar everyday joy in noticing those small treasures of wonder and beauty. This optimistic outlook is a trait that Rick complimented me on often. Returning to being optimistic almost 7 months after Rick ‘moved to paradise’ makes me feel the warmth of Rick’s smile in my heart. I can almost feel him cradling my face in his hands, giving me a kiss and telling me my optimism is one of the things that makes me wonderful. I will always remember how it felt when Rick cradled my face in his hands!
Continuing to embrace life is one of the ways I not only feel connected to Rick, but it is also an act of loving tribute to him. So, I am okay that there is no ‘October Island’ as long as hearts mean love.