There are so many forms of love!
This series will address romantic love, of which there also are multiple forms. There’s that soul-shocking first love. “You never forget your first love” is a statement made by nearly everyone who has experienced it, even after years—even decades—have passed, whether or not the love was sustained. There’s the memory love—the one for a beloved who has died. It’s a love memory that lingers, that forever makes your insides tighten with pain of the loss mixed with a yearning remembrance of that deep emotional connection. There’s the mature love—a couple growing old together with a lifetime of shared experiences. One might also add a “second-chance love,” a deep friendship that may form after one or both of you have lost your first love through death or divorce.
Today we’ll look at “memory love.” Yes, there are memories of love for a relationship that didn’t work out. But this is about the permanent loss of a beloved, one who has died, drawing again from Autumn Colors.
She needed to talk to Tom. No, she hadn’t lost it. She had some things in her head that she needed to say out loud. She needed to hear them, whether or not he could.
The group was dispersing. She caught Emma’s eye and went over to her.
“I think I’ll stay behind for a while,” she said. “Thank you for letting me know about your mom’s service.”
Emma nodded understanding.
As the last car drove out of sight, she sat down cross-legged on Tom’s grave and touched the ground affectionately. It was pleasantly warm. She remained quiet for several minutes, the only sound the rustling of the few leaves remaining on the trees, the sweet aroma of the earth beneath her giving her courage. Was Tom’s spirit anywhere around? The scent reminded her of the day he showed up after their summer apart, when she was digging in her mother’s garden, surrounded by upturned warm earth.
“Oh, Tom.” she sighed. She looked around her to be sure no one would hear her talking to a headstone, maybe to a spirit – she hadn’t ruled that out. Hoped it was the case, actually. Either way, she had to say what she stayed to say.
She stroked the ground and the stone and sighed again.
“I never said goodbye, Tom. All these years, I kept pretending that you never really left me, that you weren’t really gone. That you were just across some bridge to the hereafter, watching over me and reaching out to me.
“I went to see Rosemary Altea speak once. She said when we hold on to our departed loved ones, we’re keeping them and us from moving on. Have I held you back, Tom? I know I’ve held myself back.”
Wispy white clouds glided across the sky.
“I’m forty-nine. More than twice the age we were when you were here. I’ve been married to Charles four times longer than you and I had a relationship.”
Her eyes filled again, and the rest of her words competed with sobs.
“I squandered our love, Tom, and then you were gone before I could make it up to you. I’ve been doing the same thing with Charles for over twenty years, and I never recognized the pattern. I’ve never been fully there for Charles.
“Charles is a good man. I do love him. It’s a different love from what you and I had. But no less real or valuable. It’s a mature and steady love. He deserves better than what I’ve been giving him.
“Remember when you sent me flowers on Valentine’s Day and I called you, and you told me about your fraternity brother dying? You said it was important to let people know you love them, because they could be gone in an instant and you wouldn’t have the opportunity again. I’m grateful that I recognized my love for you and told you before it was too late. I was so angry that we had precious little time together after that.”
She dug into her coat pocket for a tissue. Her face was soaked and her nose was running. She struggled to say the last words to him.
“Now I need to be with Charles, to let him know how much I love him.”
Say it. Say it and mean it. She took a deep breath.
“It’s time to let you go, Tom.”
The breeze gusted briefly. A few more leaves drifted to the ground. The earthy smell was gone.
Blowing her nose and sighing again, she stood and stretched. Then she walked to the car and drove off without looking back.
As she left the streets of her hometown, she thought about how much had changed since she had arrived that morning. She was tired but exhilarated and optimistic. The black shroud of autumn had been lifted, hopefully for good. A light had turned on inside her where before there was only darkness. It made everything seem bright, and hummed and made her feel warm and happy.
Next time we’ll look at “mature love.”