…We were talking about the space between us all
And the people who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion
Never glimpse the truth, then it’s far too late, when they pass away
We were talking about the love we all could share
When we find it, to try our best to hold it there with our love
With our love, we could save the world, if they only knew
Try to realize it’s all within yourself
No one else can make you change
And to see you’re really only very small
And life flows on within you and without you
We were talking about the love that’s gone so cold
And the people who gain the world and lose their soul
They don’t know, they can’t see, are you one of them?
When you’ve seen beyond yourself then you may find
Peace of mind is waiting there
And the time will come when you see we’re all one
And life flows on within you and without you…
“Within You Without You” (George Harrison)
I’m learning some lost and forgotten things about myself these days that were supplanted but not necessarily eradicated from my life when Lenore came into it. For one thing, I’ve recognized that I never cared as much about life as Lenore did until I met her. Lenore loved life. I loved Lenore. That was always the bottom line for me. I left my old self and life behind gladly and joined with her, and being part of that greater self we were together fulfilled us both.
The hole in my life now that she’s gone has informed me of how much I loved her, and why. It wasn’t just the thunderbolt that hit us the day we fell in love and saw each other so clearly and dearly. It was, for me, the experience of waking every day to live with a person who was joyful, positive, loving, and enduring. Cheerful. Every day. She was remarkable that way. Her nature was so very rare – she was certainly the only person I’ve ever known who was that way.
Grief is like being adrift on an emotional ocean. There are peaks and troughs and breakers; times when you can see a horizon, times when you’re down in shadowy depths surrounded by walls of dark water and you can’t get a point of reference because everything shifts and changes. Times when breakers hit and it’s turmoil and tumble and you’re drowning and your chest aches and everything fades toward nothingness.
Yesterday marked 7 weeks since Lenore died. 42 days ago. I fell into a wild ocean of loss and grief that day.
This morning I wonder where I am. Last night, for awhile, listening to the old music with Lenore – her earthly remains next to me in a wooden cube about 8 inches on a side and the rest of her only God knows where – I found an island and I’m trying to remember what I saw from there.
I took a step back and saw a broader view. Lenore was gone, the box of ashes clear proof of that. We all die, and she died before I will. She always said she wanted to die before I did because she wouldn’t know how to be here without me. I always thought I’d die first because I didn’t take care of my body like she took care of hers. I pushed it, I forced my body to do my will no matter how hard the work, I smoked and drank huge amounts of coffee every day, I ignored the advice of doctors.
But she took care of me in the same way she took care of herself because we really were one person with two bodies, and the collateral benefit to my body gave her what she wanted. She died first. If she hadn’t come into my life 33 years earlier I probably would have died years ago.
Lenore appeared on my path when I was exploring the greater mysteries of life and she was part of that path. If she had not been part of it I could have fallen away, back down into the depths I had come from, a place of wounds and pains and thrashing wildness and a deep desire to die and be done with everything I’d suffered in life.
She was the angel who appeared in my life by the grace of God in a time when I had submitted my life to the mysteries of the universe and had become willing to accept whatever came next and not insist on my own desires for what that would be. I was by no means polished, but I was submitted and open and willing. She showed up, smiling and twinkling, a girl who wasn’t afraid of a strange, lone wolf who lived out beyond the edges of the boundary world.
She was the “Bob whisperer,” a girl who loved wild things and was looking for a love both tender and wild, a heart willing to give all to a similar heart and mind, to a creature she could run with and love and, when necessary, soothe and gentle down. The wild boy she loved, the rough boy she fell in love with because he was also loving and kind and gentle, was “the total package,” she said, sometimes “big and stupid,” and sometimes “big and smart.” She was my total package, too.
Down through our years together we became, for the most part, Labradors – domestic, joyful, loved and loving creatures – and the wild wolf in each of us was content, laying in warm sunlight on our high mountain, sometimes coming out in mischievous and playful and adventurous ways, never howling in loneliness or pain.
Now that wildness is back, but there’s a difference. 33 years with her, 33 years as us, 33 years of rare, rare goodness.
The wolf is back, but there’s a difference. I found out what that difference is last night in the words of the old songs; in a place where the ineffable and inexpressible comes into play, a place where personal, emotional connotations in fractured words and phrases spoke clearly to me.
She died. We all die, and when I take the steps backward that are necessary to see the bigger picture, I’m glad she died first. I’m glad I’m the one taking the blow and not her. She died well, it was a good death. She was herself to the last, unafraid, enduring terrible pain, yet ever who she was to the bone – a sweet, loving person willing to hug everyone she met and learn what their story was.
She died, she’s gone from the body, and I’m here without her. That’s truth, plain and simple and clear. I’ve spent 42 days in the wilderness howling at the moon in darkness from a high rock, and her loss is in me forever. Wherever I go, it will go too.
Next Wednesday I’m heading out on the road to live for awhile on the southern Oregon coast. Today the words, the old sweet fractured words, are tumbling in my mind, remnants of last night’s visit to the old songs. I’m in the wild, with her, where the heart speaks it all. Today, anyway. Tomorrow? Damn if I know.
I used to be a rolling stone; I used to look to find the answer on the road.
Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels, looking back at the years gone by like so many summer fields…
In ‘65 I really was seventeen, running on empty, running blind, running into the sun, running behind.
In ’69 I really was 21, trying to do what I could just to keep my love alive. Running hot, running cold, I was running into overload. I took it so high, so low, there was no where to go – like a bad dream…
Then I found Lenore. She was everything to me. She was my girl. I held her near, told her how much I cared. There was laughter and loving and joy in my world everyday when she was my girl. Now I’ve lost everything, she’s gone, gone, gone, gone, gone!
Death like a thief has come, and like a thief he’s gone. Now I’m a broken heart at the scene of the crime. The nights drag on and I’m lost and blue. Come on and shake this shadow that you’re clinging to… Come to your senses, everybody learns…
She says don’t go sleeping with the past, don’t go praying I’ll come back, take a deep breath and be here, with me in your heart.
Although she’s gone and sorrow’s turned my heart to frost, she will mend my heart again. She says remember the feeling as a child, when you woke up and morning smiled, it’s time, it’s time, it’s time you felt like that again.
There is just no percentage in remembering the past, it’s time you learned to live again and love and last. Come with me, sweet Bob, and leave yesterday behind. And take a giant step outside your mind.
Don’t sit there in your lonely room, looking back inside that gloom, honey that’s not where you belong. Come with me and I’ll take you where the taste of life is sweet, and
everyday – every day – has just got to be seen. Come with me and leave your yesterday, your yesterday, behind – and take a giant step outside your mind.
I used to be a heart beating for someone, but the times have changed.
She said shine a light, won’t you shine a light. She said I love you. She said shine my light through your eyes, through the eyes of the one left behind. She said if you choose to you can live your life alone, I’ll be with you, just shine a light, shine a light,
We’ll shine our light here together, and live on…
She says honey, as soon as you are able, I’m here to make the break that you’re on the brink of. Our cup is on the table, our love is spilling over, waiting here for you to take a
drink from. So if you’re tired of the grieving then turn some pages – I’m here when you’re ready to roll with the changes.
I knew it had to happen, I felt the tables turning, she got me through my darkest hours, when I heard the thunder clapping and felt the desert burning. Now she’s come to me like a sweet sun shower and I’m tired of the same old story. I’m ready to roll with the changes. So let’s roll once more, let’s roll down the highway, let it roll, let it roll… We’ll roll with the changes.
We’ll howl in the mountains and at the ocean’s edge together. We’ll howl loss, and love, and joy together in this strange, unbearable, wild and beautiful life.