In the days and weeks after Laura’s death, it took quite a bit of time for me to feel comfortable alone without her. I don’t think I’m truly comfortable now without her, in fact I know that I’m not, but I’ve become more accustomed to being alone. While my faith has been casual over the years, I’ve come to believe that there is something to life after, and the notion that those we love never really leave us.
Every spot in our house holds a memory of Laura. Every drawer opens a reminiscence. There are pictures of Laura, the boys, me, family and friends from great moments and memories throughout the house. I’ve changed some pictures and moved some around. One that I’ve kept in its same spot is one of my favorites that was taken in the pre-digital camera days at our wedding. It’s a picture of Laura and me as we left the reception. As we were about to get into the limo, one of Laura’s friends came to say goodbye, and the photo captured the two of us in profile. Laura looked like a movie star. She was radiant. I can remember that moment and the limo ride leaving there so vividly. It’s one of those moments in time that was so perfect. So beautiful.
There are times over the past months that I’ve felt like Laura was still beside me. Physically present. And there are moments that have stopped me in my tracks knowing that she was there. Is here. We are blessed to live in one of the absolute best neighborhoods in the world. The 22 houses on our street and others surrounding us are more than just neighbors; it is a true community. Our street, Ivy Glen Court, is the heart of our community, and our IGC friendships and gatherings are pretty special. The day after Laura passed, there were white ribbons tied in remembrance of Laura on each of our mail box posts, and they are still there after weathering the winter. The Sunday evening following Laura’s death, I was notified to come outside about 7 pm, just as the sun was setting. Unknowingly to me, our neighbors had organized a special memorial to Laura. For the entire length of our street, luminaires lined all the way from the start of IGC up to the cul-de-sac where we live and back down the other side of the street. The boys, my sister and me – along with the dogs – walked to the start of the street, where all the neighbors had gathered. It was quiet, peaceful and beautiful. There were hugs and sympathies shared. That afternoon had been cloudy and gray and the evening was, too. One of our neighbors who is an accomplished professional photographer captured some moments of the night, and there is one photo in particular that stands out. Just as we came out of our house and the sun was about to set behind the cloudy sky, the clouds thinned and a ray of sunshine burst through the early night sky to create a beautiful sunset. It was so noticeable and everyone outside experienced it, and experienced Laura’s love shining through at that moment.
Even before this night, there had been other signs of Laura’s presence. At her service at St David’s, just as Sam and Luke ascended the alter to place a memorial white rose with her ashes, many people saw and later commented about the hawk flying in the trees directly behind the church. It first appeared during Reverend Mary Kay’s homily, as it gracefully soared just outside the windows of the chapel. And she stayed there, in our view, as we said good bye to Laura.
There was a sunset this week that brought back some recent memories of Laura, too. Tonight is the opening of the Twilight polo season here in northern VA, and to get ourselves and the ponies ready, we played a warm up game at Great Meadow the other night. I was pretty focused on the road during the drive down there as I was pulling a trailer with 8 of our horses, but when I got to GM and walked around the grounds, it brought back so many memories of being there with Laura. We had so much fun there together. I loved playing when Laura was there, and I also loved being there with her, watching other games, spending time with friends and getting to know new people. Last summer, the 20th of our marriage was special. In fact almost to a date, the last year of Laura’s life, our 20th year of marriage, was one of our best. I think we each had gained some perspective of who we were and just how special our marriage was. So being back at Great Meadow this week just triggered a lot of memories about last summer and about Laura. Being there took me to place where happy memories and grief co-exist. As we were coming out of the arena after the last chukker, a friend took the picture below, and it reminded me that Laura was riding with me.
There are coincidences and explanations for everything in life. But there are also our beliefs, and our ability to believe that she is still with us in different ways. I choose to believe. But in doing so, it also unnerves me at times.
As I wrote about in October 10, Laura was diagnosed with hypertension and had a prescription to treat it. That medication was kept in her medicine cabinet. We each have one above our respective sinks in the bathroom. They are the normal kind of medicine cabinet that are in so many homes across America: four of five shelves, about 2 or 3 inches deep and a mirrored door with a magnetic closure. In the days and weeks following Laura’s death, I became very aware of Laura’s medicine cabinet and a pattern that was occurring. I noticed with some pretty regular frequency that the medicine cabinet was open. A few inches. Never all the way open and not slightly cracked. Just a few inches. Opened. From its magnetic closure. At first, I thought maybe it was one of the boys as Luke and Sam were sharing my bathroom while we had family staying with us. But I questioned them and it wasn’t them, and then they moved back to using their own bathroom, and the pattern of Laura’s medicine cabinet was still occurring. Never my medicine cabinet. And it just doesn’t make sense. There was no one in the house opening it, or using it. There was no gust of air or something randomly brushing it or catching it to open it. There was just one explanation… that it was Laura letting me know she was there. Letting me know that it was her heart, so full of life and love, that had failed. In the weeks after her death, there were nights that I was anxious about going upstairs to our room and into the bathroom. I was anxious about that medicine cabinet, and scared that it was going to be open. And it was at times randomly open a few inches. After some time, my anxiety with the medicine cabinet seemed to release from me. I grew more comfortable seeing it open, and even began smiling and saying hello to Laura when I saw it was open.
It had been a couple of months, I guess, since I’d seen the medicine cabinet open. I had been working on moving forward as I wrote about in I Go On, and the boys and I were adjusting to our new norm: getting through and getting by. I also had experienced a sort of loss again; though it doesn’t compare to the loss of Laura in any way. That night, when I got home and went up to my room, in the bathroom, above Laura’s sink counter, was her medicine cabinet – open a few inches. As bad as I was feeling, it made me smile, and cry, knowing that Laura was there for me, extending her love to me. Knowing what I had just gone through, she was reaching out to me to let me know that I’ll be okay. She’s okay, we’re okay.
There are so many things that remind me of Laura. And there are so many signs around me that remind me of her and comfort me with her ongoing love.