Gone Too Soon, Remembered Always

When I was a little kid, the only anniversary that impacted me or my friends was a birthday. Celebration, party, cake, ice cream, gifts; it was the best day of the year. Well, except for Christmas, but the dynamics of that day were entirely different from the annual birthday bash.

Passing of time changed all that. As we grew, and the boundaries of our worlds expanded, including more people and places, with experiences both good and bad; we marked additional annual remembrances with joy and sorrow. Births, deaths, accomplishments, arrivals, departures, beginnings, endings. Dates for them all became forever etched into our memories, and onto our calendars.

It always has been easy to celebrate the happy moments; to recall with pride and joy successes, additions, and forward movements in our journeys. But, those times of loss, failure, or profound disappointment are another story. During one particular crisis, many years ago, I had a friend tell me, “You will never forget, but it won’t always hurt to remember.” There are events in my life where I still am waiting for the pain to subside. I believed what my friend told me; however, experientially, it simply has not happened.

Actually, to be more precise, I think the years give clarity to what were, at one time, emotionally cataclysmic events. As in that moment, ones entire being was engulfed by the shock, horror, or depth of an experience, and passing time redefines and gives understanding to what exactly causes continued pain.

Perhaps, it is too simplistic a view, but I believe at the core of long-term sorrow is an irreversible, unalterable loss of hope for what could have been. We are left with a big, vacant place in our souls where before we had a bright, exciting, solid future. That once vibrant hope can be replaced with a new thing, but that which was lost can never be restored. And some of us never quite recover from what was, even if opportunities for new beginnings knock on our doors.

That having been said, it bears pointing out that these are private, personal chambers in our minds, where we visit now and again. One cannot dwell there forever, but anniversaries can call one to stop in for a while, and reminisce. And so it is today.

He was one of the brightest, funniest, and most creative people, ever. We had known each other since our sophomore year in high school, and devotion never waned, even though our paths took different directions after our first year in college. He went to Vietnam, I moved to the Bay Area. Our lives progressed over the years, and through the growth and changes, our friendship and affection remained intact. So strong was our bond, we miraculously found each other again after thirty-seven years apart. It was as though time had waited for us. We picked up right where we left off, made a commitment to spend the rest of our days together, and rejoiced at what our future held.

Our cross-country drive from California to Maine was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. We saw this country up close and personal. It was huge, magnificent, and every mile was entertaining. We had to work at making those endless corn fields fun, but we did it. There were some sobering moments mixed in with the joy of our journey; he developed pneumonia, and was hospitalized in Iowa. He recovered, but during his stay I was presented with medical records which explained in detail two previous heart by-pass surgeries, which were ten years apart; the first when he was thirty-seven, the second when he was forty-seven. The records also contained the current state of his heart. It was shocking and terrifying to read, and the worst of it was he was entering the tenth year after his last by-pass surgery.

He recovered, and we made it to Maine. Our house was on the bay in Owls Head, and it was perfect for two people who loved the sea, and each other. We were there for four months when it all came to a sudden end. After a walk downtown, and lunch in a quaint restaurant, we returned home. A few minutes after arriving, he had his final heart attack and died. A month before our wedding.

It was ten years ago today. I have moved on with my life, and I am able to look back on those days with gratitude. They were brief, but they were ours. Interestingly, I was so devastated, at the time, I took nothing away from the experience except his dog tags. Unusual item to hold as the representation, the touchstone of a relationship. But of all the talks about our lives, the one which moved me the most was when he described his return from Vietnam.

He said people yelled at him in the airport, and when he got home, no one cared that he had been over there, or what his duty had cost him. He saw and did things that changed him, and he had no one who cared enough to listen to him talk about it once he got back. One day he gave me his dog tags, and said he wanted me to keep them no matter what happened, because I was the only person who had ever cared that he served in Vietnam. It is all I have left of him, yet it is enough.

Anniversaries come and go. Now, this far down the road, any given year is filled with good, public celebrations, and private, sorrowful ones. Rather than focusing on the giddiness or sadness of either, I like to think the anniversaries we observe are a measure of lives well-lived, where we can face either with a hearty courage; not demanding only good times, but more than that, willing to embrace those days which gave our journeys depth.

I share this day’s observation with others, because I know I am not alone. And if there is some companionship in the expression of a common feeling found in written words, some comfort taken from realizing we are not on our journeys all by ourselves, and maybe a little courage stirred up enabling one to face a trial or a disappointment, then I feel gratified in having allowed others to know, for but a moment, someone who left us way too soon, but is remembered always.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Valleygrail

Native Californian by birth, Pacific Northwesterner by choice. Jack of all trades, master of none; always wishing I could stick with just one thing long enough to become expert. But then what about all those things left unattended? See? Not possible. I love life, my family, friends, a good book, Irish music, rain, fog, and a pint of Guinness. It's a good journey, and sharing with companions makes it even better. Thanks for being with me as I embrace it and you!
This entry was posted in Aging, Anniversaries, Baby Boomers, Death, Friendship, Life Journey, Uncategorized, Viet Nam War and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Gone Too Soon, Remembered Always

  1. nrhatch says:

    That’s a sad anniversary, VG . . . but it’s great that you had those 4 months together. And that you enjoyed your time with him.

    Peace.

  2. So sorry for your loss. Definitely a sad anniversary, but it sounds like the time you had together was wonderful.

  3. btg5885 says:

    VG, thanks for sharing your story and remembrance. Grieving never stops, we just learn to live with it and place it in a compartment in our minds. Anniversaries or events take us back to that compartment. Your trip seems filled with wonderful togetherness, that cannot ever be lost, even though it ended in tragedy. I think you honor him and your relationship by remembering it. Best wishes to you, BTG

  4. Anjali says:

    Thank you for sharing something so personal VG! And indeed your words have touched me, made me pause and think about life and love, even though we though outwardly we might appear so very different, the skin colour, the cultures, the countries and everything else the world fights over – ultimately sharing like this brings home the point that we are ALL human, with the same feeling of love to bind us. Thank you.

  5. What a beautiful remembrance. My wife and I are going to hit our 40th wedding anniversary next month–and reading your touching post makes me realize how important it is to cherish the moments you have together, because you never know what life has in store. Thank you so much for the reminder. Peace.

  6. Omg *Chills* Oh…what a story and what storytelling. I don’t feel qualified to say anything or attempt to comfort you. “Sorry” certainly doesn’t cut it. You’ve written a beautiful tribute to your beloved and to love, to which I am so glad to bear witness.

    Xxx
    Diana

  7. Beautifully said. I don’t know if it’s true that most joys can be universal, while inner pain can only ever be singular, but I would venture that it’s at least supported by my own experiences and observations.

    Those anniversaries of our most devastating lows and losses do, as you say, become more bearable over time but never less present and poignant. I have worked to create purposefully, meaningfully happy memories on those anniversaries so that I have some inner fuel for keeping my balance better on the date, but it won’t ever erase what is already there, nor should it. I am who I am because of each of those crises and sorrows as much as because of my successes and pleasures, and I will continue to find myself shaped and colored by them all. I send you empathetic affection and great hopes for your continued healing and hope.

    Thank you for sharing this. It always means so much to know that I’m never in this alone! Neither are you.

    Kindest regards,
    Kathryn

    • valleygrail says:

      And I thank you so much! I believe feeling isolated can delay our growth from such experiences. When we find we are not alone, it’s with a sigh of relief we can link our emotional arms, and continue those forward steps. I so appreciate your understanding.

  8. simon Tocclo says:

    Very touching .Thank you for sharing ❤

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