Last year at this time, I was still recovering from the outpouring of love and and intensity around Richard’s memorial. Gradually my focus turned towards leaving Bearsville, the home of twenty five years of our lives, of his death, and of my childhood since I was 5 years old. His death chapel/living room was filled with boxes of our old life. Every day was an invitation to dispose of what was left after the first go round of auction-able items. Some decisions were easy and clear cut. After Richard’s family and our friends had chosen a few of his nicer clothes, and after we gave away any of his useful work-clothes and boots (and tools, tools, tools) to men he had worked with over the years, all of his other clothing went to a charity organization in our nearby small city. I imagine someone wearing his barely used suit to a special occasion. Or his various coats for the many seasons endured in Catskill Mountain weather, walking around on other people’s bodies. A few of my own dressy dresses also went to that good place. How many weddings would I attend in the very near future? Would antique styles be back in fashion fifteen years from now as grandchildren graduated and got married? At the time, my body was already in rough shape and I couldn’t imagine traveling anywhere, anyway.
Looking back, I can see I made both solid and irrational choices based on “widow mind”. There is a reason that you shouldn’t make any big decisions for a year after losing your partner. Grief renders your executive thinking into unrecognizable mush. The hospice team said,“ It’s perfectly normal to feel crazy in your grief.” Crazy is when you can’t see for yourself that you are not entirely rational. It seemed perfectly reasonable to let go of some things I now wish I still possessed. I only knew if I was to live in one room at this unknown place called Kendal, I probably would live like a nun. A renunciate’s life appealed to me at the time. I had already lost all of my best beloved earthly delights- my husband, my home, and my health. I was more than halfway there. My daughters firmly kept me here and were so dearly supportive of wherever I needed to go and however I deemed best to get there.
At the time, I couldn’t have known that the brutal wounding of my heart broke me open in marvelous ways. Letting go of what was my life, for better and for worse, yielded a reemerging hunger for new life. Not the life I knew before, but the life that was yet in its infancy when I first arrived at Kendal. The reshaping of my identity as Judi took surprising turns. Living in a community with its established celebrations and excellent vehicles for creative expression brought out a dormant fount of my own need to write more songs, poems and essays; even to choreograph a dance. It has been a revelation to see the offerings that have sprouted through me. I saw a need to nurture simply being in the midst of this very actively doing group of people and now I lead weekly meditation groups. They are small but we are fed by our partnership in silence.
This chapter of my life released me from being a wife. Ten thousand decisions ,always undertaken with two of us in mind, fell to me alone. I had been with Richard since I was sixteen. I barely had time to see “me” as an independent person before becoming a “we.”. Waking up to myself is a gift I have been given and I do not take it lightly. I am more dedicated to being alive as fully as I can be. That nun has gratefully shed her robes and entered into the world wearing colors and styles that are much younger than her peers at Kendal. I am more my own age than ever before. My physical compromises pointed me to a necessary inner life earlier than others in my late sixties bracket. I am grateful for the depth of my spiritual explorations: they sustain the me that I am and they abide as my overriding passion.
I am fortunate that I can also kick up my worldly heels at the same time. My body has been re gifted with more stamina to engage. I have a small garden outside my windows that calls me to enduring fertility, nurturance, and flowering. I am going to buy composted soil this weekend to prepare for new perennials I will soon plant. I need to kneel down, get dirty, and be responsible for their colorful lives.