On the 500th morning after Evelyn's death, a puff of wind comes in through the window with the scent of jasmine from our yard. The air flutters the shades for a moment, then all is still. From somewhere in the cosmos I hear Evelyn say, “Enough mourning, Markie. It’s time to get on with your life.”
In the evening, I create a ceremony for the end of a marriage. Putting on a CD of Andrea Bocelli, I light a tangerine candle on the mantel, and watch the flame push back the darkness.
This is the moment I’ve been putting off because removing my wedding ring felt like turning away from Evelyn. Although our marriage probably ended when she died, my heart has been slow to accept this. Yet I know I won’t resume living until I do.
When I put my ring on Evelyn’s finger in the small stone chapel in Berkeley, I felt the warmth of her hand. When she put this ring on my finger, I saw the love in her eyes. Both of us were nervous about what the years would bring, but sure that we wanted to face them together.
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Because someone is singing in Italian, I think of Petrarch’s devotion to Laura. He first saw her on April 6th and fell in love. Although they had no personal relationship, and may not have even spoken to each other because she was married to someone else, he knew where his heart had landed, and did not want to love anyone else.
Laura would die twenty-one years later on the same date, but he would continue to write sonnets about her for years. April 6th is also the day that Evelyn died, after we had been together for twenty-one years.
I don’t know what to do now. Words are only shadows of my heart, yet they’re all I have.
I thank Evelyn for how she loved me, for her smile and care over the years as we built a life with each other. I speak of our great adventures as well as our struggles, and the times when I think I failed her. I tell her that I don’t know where my life will now head, but I don’t want to forget her singing, her laughter, or her presence in my life. I hope she will remember me.
Slowly I pull my wedding band off and hold it in my hand. “I will love you forever, my love, beyond the limitations of this world and the mysteries of the next.”
I pick up Evelyn’s ring from the white onyx box glowing in candlelight and nestle it inside my ring. They are simple, like our love. Just round bands of precious metal with our names inscribed to each other.
Without the ring anchoring me, I begin to drift. When Bocelli and Sarah Brightman sing their duet “Con Te Partiro / Time to Say Goodbye,” I feel my heart swell with gratitude. And finally it begins to beat with hope.
Mark Liebenow’s work has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and named a notable essay by Best American Essays 2012. His account of hiking in Yosemite to deal with grief, Mountains of Light, was published by the University of Nebraska Press.
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