Opening the side door of my house, I hear the cries, whimpers and barks of my two faithful companions. Climbing the few stairs leading to the kitchen door, I hear the sound of a Labrador tail pounding against the cupboards. With warm, grateful canine expressions, Shiloh and Cricket welcome me home.
After the robust, mutually enthusiastic greeting, I walk to the table and deposit my purse and keys. I open the slider for the dogs to go outside while I settle in for the evening. Like every night, I head into the bedroom to plug-in the Christmas lights hanging along the curtain rods to warmly drive out the darkness with colors spilling onto the walls.
I head to the kitchen to call the dogs back in the house and begin to prepare dinner for all of us. Walking down the hall to gather my gym clothes, I notice half of the string of colorful bulbs have stopped working. Feeling deep sadness, tears start rolling down my cheeks.
“Those are your lights, Richie.” I said out loud with only the dogs to hear me.
Richard loved Christmas lights and would have a string of them in the living room until summer. We used them as ambient light instead of candles. Neither one of us liked harsh lighting in the evening while we watched TV. The Christmas lights were perfect. He would plug them in every evening and unplug them when it was time to go to sleep.
One night last April after being awake only a couple of hours, Richard said, “I am so hungry and frustrated because I can’t get enough to eat. I might just as well go back to bed.” I said, “Ok.” Knowing he was weaker and weaker every day, I followed up with: “Do you think this is your last night in the living room?” He replied with a nod, “Yes.”
Staying in the living room for a few more minutes, we reminisced about things we shared in that room through the years. With gratitude, laughter and tears, we talked about Christmases and watching our favorite TV shows. We talked about the hours of sharing our hearts with one another over the previous year and how it was, by far, the best year of our relationship. We talked about ending life well, purely loving, how tangible God became for us and how hard this journey has been.
I moved over next to him and he put his arm around me. We sat in the silence holding hands for a few minutes, enjoying the lights. Then we knew it was time to transition into the bedroom. Richard made his way down the hallway with his walker. The familiar sound of his twisted gait always caused me pain. That night it was excruciating. I knew that was the last time I would hear that sound.
After helping him get ready for bed, I made my way back to the living room. I turned on the table lamp and slowly reached for the string of Christmas lights wrapped around the blinds. I carefully removed them while fighting unhelpful tears. I gathered the lights together and took them into the bedroom.
“What cha doing?” Richard said. “Bringing the living room to you.” I replied. Fighting tears, he said, “Thank you.” I followed with, “I’m not hauling the rest of that stuff in here. It won’t fit.” We laughed together. We always found ways to laugh together.
So, here I stand today looking at the half lit string of lights. A decision must be made. I walk over to the cabinet and retrieve a new box of Christmas lights I bought at the end of the season for this very reason. I carefully take down the lights in the bedroom and wind them up putting them off to the side. Untangling the new set of lights, I place them around the room in a similar fashion as “Richard’s” lights. The bulbs on this string are all white. They need to look different from Richard’s lights; they are my lights.
The tears have stopped flowing yet there is still a deep sadness. My life is good yet I miss all the wonder of him. I pick up the old lights and take them out to the trash. I don’t need lights to remember him. He will always a part of me. I must continue to move forward.
Resurrecting Larko: It’s a great year.