My Heart’s Rejoicing
By Christy Wiseman
Valentine’s Day is approaching. It is a perfect day for friendship and love to be expressed. Sweet, often homemade cards, are exchanged among children, maybe with a giggle at their boldness in taking this first risk of sharing their feelings. It can herald the arrival of the transition from one’s innocence and self focus, to the eventual transformation from “I” to “thou.” This focusing on another, rather than on oneself, may be repeated many times when life moves on as we grow and change and become. It is at life’s core. It defines us and clarifies our values
Valentine’s is a day when the future holds promise; when anything seems possible. It is a day to remind us that it is okay to be tender, vulnerable and fully in touch with our feelings. February 14th is a day of optimism for the young, but often one of reflection of the love experienced in our lives by those in their twilight years.
Speaking of reflection, the well-known local poet, Jim Tipton, shared one of his very powerful reflections. I want to share it with you as he so clearly and simply understands that period of grief which follows loss.
“Tropical storm –
The lights went out
While I was sitting on the bed
Growing old without you.”
I have no idea for whom he had originally written this tanka. It wasn’t written for me, but the words resonated within me as they might resonate within you as well. Final goodbyes are never easy, both when they happen and when one realizes the enormity of the word “forever.” Being a widow, the words caused me to reflect on my life and on how things change with time. We all know life is full of changes, some welcome, some not.
When I was young I was attracted to a very handsome man some years my senior. My mother had always told me, “Marry a man who is older and then to him you will always remain young and beautiful.” Good advice as far as it went. It certainly had worked for her and my prince charming was bright, handsome, thoughtful, courteous to a fault and we had a beautiful wedding. We didn’t really know one another. We would have looked great as the two figures on top of the cake. What could go wrong? I was 21.
Unfortunately for our “happily ever after,” as he was gay, which was not an acceptable thing at that time. Although he hoped he could change, he could not and I felt a lot of guilt for not being able to induce that change. God knows I tried. We reluctantly and some years later came to the conclusion that we made good friends, but that for a heterosexual marriage to work, both people being heterosexual was essential.
It awakened us to the acceptance of the fact that we are as we are and that is really not something over which we have any power. We divorced, but stayed friends until his death. Divorce freed us to find our lives’ true partners. Fortunately we both did.
My granddaughter, at one of our early family dinners, took me aside and in her sweet young innocence asked me to explain why she had so many grandfathers? I just smiled and told her some girls were just luckier than others. She smiled, feeling blessed, and skipped off to join them.
I wrote both the eulogy and the obituary for my ex when he died. His partner was too distraught to do so. Even today, Steve and his new partner are welcomed at our Thanksgiving table because my children and grandchildren have learned that while there are many kinds of love, the essential ingredient is in the heart, not visible to the eye. We value one another as human beings and treasure our various bonds of friendship.
My second husband was the love of my life and throughout forty years we created a history of love, compromise, lessons learned about the essence of caring and of the words we had promised one another before our God – to love, honor and protect. (No, I’m not into “obey” and never was, but we each protected the other throughout our lives and I have some very good memories.)
On this Valentine’s Day, I wish you love, and the joy you can have if you choose to cherish your memories, understanding that those days are past, while making each day special in the now.
Long lives have many chapters, each with its joys, sorrows and lessons. Each chapter has a blessing, just waiting for us to discover. Maybe in this, your latest chapter, the one which is now, you will choose to take that first tentative risk of daring to care, which on a different level, you began so long ago. If you do, you too may just find that Valentine’s this year can again be a day for your heart’s rejoicing.