Rolling in the undertow of a huge grief tsunami.
I was browsing youtube for videos of songs I might want to sing at my recital, trying to ignore that today is December 1st, and the 5th is once again upon me. And I happened upon a video of Keith Richards performing at the Merle Haggard Tribute Concert that Warren and I went to on April 6th. I smiled, remembering how much fun we had that night and I pushed play anticipating the good memories the song would bring…
‘Best concert I have ever seen!’ my Bear crowed as we left the Bridgestone Arena that night with 17,000 of our new closest friends. We stopped to admire the tour buses – recognized Loretta Lynn’s by the coal miner emblem on the front, parked not far from Willie Nelson’s. Security wouldn’t let us get close but we took some dark and blurry pictures anyway. Stopped again half-way up the hill to the parking lot where we had stowed Ursula before the concert to let Warren’s legs rest for a few moments. He leaned back on a street lamp pulled me to him and we kissed, giggling like kids, our hearts full of happiness. A truck honked, Warren just kissed me more – like a couple of old teenagers.
When we got to the truck, he greeted her as he always did: ‘Hello Ursula’ but tonight added ‘my, you missed a wonderful concert’ He groaned as he climbed in behind the steering wheel, then grinned at me and took my hand.
‘We did it! You bought us the tickets, we got in the truck and here we are – we just did it.’ he kissed my knuckles.
‘God I’m tired’ he laughed quietly.
‘Me too Bear…’ I smiled back ‘me too’
He started the truck and we pulled out onto upper broadway, wound our way through the traffic, and slowly rode through Nashville’s downtown core – the lights, the people, the music. I looked over and could see the smile still on his face – it echoed the happiness in my own heart.
When we got to the hotel we shucked off our clothes and crawled into bed, tv on, him with the pillows piled against the headboard, arm out for me to slip under and rest my head on his shoulder. Our ritual every night.
For 45 nights.
Tonight as I watched the video – Keith Richards singing ‘Sing me back home’- I realized that we are there, right there, in the audience. I can see us. Our seats were right in front of the lighting pit – centre of the floor. We were in seats 24 and 25. When the lights pan the audience, there he is – you wouldn’t know who it was if your broken heart wasn’t looking intently for it – but the tall pale blob, standing beside the short black blob with light hair? That’s us. Captured there forever.
The shock hits me right in the heart. I burst into tears and I want nothing more than to be there again. Every memory of that night comes flooding back – him standing with the camera in his hand, focused intently on the stage. He looked so handsome and I was so proud to be there with him. And amazed. Amazed that after all these years we were finally together. My Bear and me.
We didn’t know that we had only 29 days left.
I keep thinking that I’m getting through this. I have this coach in the back of my head who is encouraging me to keep going, keep living. I know that it’s Warren who is helping me – I know that he would have done anything to still be here with me. And I am trying so hard to carve a life out for myself : Job, House, Singing lessons – I want him to be proud of me. See that I’m carrying on as he would want me to. He couldn’t bear it when I was sad.
But there are days when this life is just meaningless. I would give any of these things up to have one more day with him. Trite isn’t it? Just like all the platitudes in all those sad songs… And I remind myself that Warren would give anything to be here – even for one of my worst days – and so I try to be grateful. Grateful for each day I wake up and that I have these memories of him. Of us. Of that excellent trip.
I try to be grateful.
But when the grief hits me from out of nowhere – when I think that I might have a handle on the fact that half of my heart is just gone… gratitude is the last thing I can find.
I miss you so much my Bear…