2 years after the death of my beloved husband, John, an image of me cutting off my arm flooded into my psyche. Like a rock climber with an arm pinned under a boulder, I had to find a way to cut off my arm in order to live. I pulled out a dull pocket knife and did the unthinkable in digging deep to find a way to cut off my arm. Slice by slice, I experienced a pain that I didn’t know was possible to feel. I watched from outside my body doubled over on the floor, wishing I would just die or be free of this pain. Both happened. I died. And in my death, I was set free.
It didn’t happen all at once and there is no way I would attempt to instruct anyone in cutting off their arm. I simply did what was in front of me, what organically came forward moment by moment. There was no strategy. I lived the answers, allowing my soul to instruct me as I never had before.
John was the happiest person I had ever known. He lived each day as if it were his last and reminded me daily, “There will never be another day just like this one so enjoy it.” I would return the favor reminding him that there will never be another human being just like him. And there won’t be.
He was my hillbilly Zen master, appearing to be ordinary in his camouflage pants, T-shirt and baseball cap. But embodying an abiding sense of joy no matter what life brought his way and sharing wisdom in one-liners that opened my mind, heart, body and soul.
Our meeting is the reason I believe in fate and destiny. John gifted me in his life and has gifted me in his death, showing me how to be alive, living the passion, freeing the spirit and reminding me that we can live many lives within a lifetime.
John was no stranger to heartbreak, witnessing at age 3 his little brother’s death following a car accident where he walked away without a scratch. His dad died when John was only 10. And he left for Vietnam when he was 18 seeing the horrors of war take the lives of men, women and children.
He teetered between this life and the afterlife countless times in his 60 years. We used to tease that he had already used his 90 lives, ten times more than any cat. He knew that life is now and someday may never come. Knowing there was no promise of tomorrow, he didn’t wait to enjoy life when everything was going his way. He loved each day as an adventure and lived it all playfully, walking in a field of kindness that engulfed all who experienced him.
Now, I am living life in the way John did because I know that my death will come but as long as I am here, I am going to LIVE. I like all that I am even the ugliest parts of me and love my life more than I knew was possible in the wake of John’s death. His legacy is the love, the passion that lives in me and fuels my new life. I have had other women whose husbands have died challenge me, saying that I can’t say that I now love life more than I knew was possible in the wake of John’s death. They fear others will think I don’t miss John and that I shouldn’t love life more without him here. To this, I respond that the heartbreak opened me to a depth of Self that didn’t exist before and in that depth, I found a well of abundant peace, love, joy. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t love life before but the well is deeper than I knew and I gratefully rest in it. In this space, I am unconditionally present to life. This is a wondrous way to be in the world! And it cost me EVERYTHING to know this.