“Hey bro, surf’s up.” It had been a long time since I said these words. But I was living in Oahu, Hawai'i again and surf talk is common—even among those of us who are mere boogie-boarders or beach walkers.
About a year ago, after the sudden death of my husband, I moved back home to the island where I was born and graduated from Waialua High and Intermediate School. We knew each other for thirty years and had been married—and nearly inseparable—for twenty-five of those years. In the summer of 2015, I was preparing to move on after one more academic year with the University of Oklahoma. We were excited about the future and contemplating the many possibilities. Then in August, while I was away at a conference and right before the start of the fall semester, Paul unexpectedly died, and my world shattered.
I learned that until you experience it, you truly cannot know what it is like to lose a cherished loved one who has been an integral part of your daily existence: the heart-rending loss, the bottomless grief, the evaporation of hopes and dreams, the dissolution of self. I loved teaching, but now I couldn’t bear to enter the classroom. Lesson plans that typically took twenty minutes to whip up after five years of teaching at OU now required at least an hour to ponder as I attempted to provide my colleagues with material to cover my classes for the first couple of weeks. In the end, I took a medical leave of absence for the semester. I could not conceive of continuing my life as if nothing had happened; my former life, my former self, was no more. I needed time and space to heal from this wound and reconsider my life direction. I decided to return to where I began, Hawai‘i.
The journey to health and wholeness was facilitated by the loving and material support of family and friends. Paul and I had been disconnected from loved ones for many of our final years together due to the constraints of distance and life’s demands. The telephone and internet helped to overcome these obstacles to staying close, but it was not the same as being with the ones you love. In retrospect I can say that when news of Paul’s passing spread to our family and friends, the outpouring of love and support filled my broken heart.
I consider myself a highly intuitive, spiritual person. Like Christians, I believe love is the most powerful force in the universe, but I don’t ascribe to the dogma of many that there is only one pathway to heaven. There are too many good non-Christians in the world for this to be true. I believe that we can have a personal relationship with the Divine Source of Life, referred to in different traditions by many names including God, Goddess, Allah, and Great Spirit. I have cultivated my connection to Divine Love, and Paul and I lived a life of respect for other people, including helping and caring for those in need. We shared a respect and love for Mother Nature (how else shall we refer to this beautiful planet who nurtures us all?) and for life itself—finding precious moments to sing, love, laugh, and celebrate the time we were given.
All this is important to know about us because the experiences that have helped me get back on my feet are firmly rooted in our shared spirituality of love and faith in a benevolent universe that returns our love. I am sharing my experiences in part to memorialize our love. Moving forward after such a devastating loss has been the hardest challenge in my life, and writing our story helps. Equally important is the recognition that many people get stuck after losing a best friend and cherished loved one. I have a deep sense of what this feels and looks like, and I have been blessed with experiences that encouraged me to get unstuck and live a full life, despite my loss, with full faith and knowledge that we will meet again.
I sincerely hope my story will bring healing to those who are grieving, courage to those who are facing loss, and hope to others who fear the day when they will encounter the loss of those whom they cherish the most.
For more information about this book and the author, click here.