I'm going to try to tell a little story. A very personal story. I don't know if I'll hit publish. Just writing it may help.
It was a long time ago but every year on this date it all comes back. The memory is vivid and still in color. And the pain.............well, there are no words for that.
The first clue that something was amiss was the empty spot on my bedside table which everyday held a cup of coffee. I waited but finally got up and went down to the kitchen where I expected to find my husband or at least the coffee brewing while he was outside getting the paper. But there was no coffee, no husband. I then checked all the main floor rooms - quietly, as there were children, ages 8 and 11, asleep upstairs. Okay, check outside. His car was there. He wasn't in the pool. The boat was at the dock. Now, I'm irritated. I had to get this show on the road. Get the kids up and fed and off for my son's first tennis lesson which was scheduled with the club pro.
Last place to look was the lower level. Down there Jim had an office and a studio but he never went there before coffee. Strange. At the bottom of the stairs I looked to the left, into the office, and there he was, apparantly asleep. Sitting up in a leather armchair, peacefully asleep. Leaning against the door jamb, hand on hip, I proceeded to, not so gently, ask him to wake up and help me get going. It was then I noticed little red spots on his grey pajamas. Heart attack came to mind and I rushed over, put my hands on his shoulders and started shaking him. Then I saw the gun wedged between his body and the chair arm and I knew instantly he was dead. Red spots, blood, gun, dead. Simple.
If this was a movie or a novel there would be screaming, crying, holding him in my arms, but none of that happened in my very real life. There were children and they were sleeping directly above. I closed the door, went upstairs, called the police, called a neighbor to come for the children, called his brother in New York and waited. Within minutes both a police car and and ambulance arrived. I gave a brief statement to the officer and went upstairs to wake the children and get them ready to be taken away. Police escorted them through the crowd which had gathered in the street and our front yard. More police had arrived and they wouldn't allow me to go back downstairs with them. Thinking they were doing me a favor, they removed his body though the downstairs studio door and whisked him away to the morgue. I never saw him again. Never saw that handsome face, those blue eyes, that thick wavy dark hair again. So when I think of him on this anniversary of his death the picture is grim. I have to go to old photographs to remember him alive and full of himself, in his favorite navy blazer, grey slacks, so tall, so ridiculously preppy, smiling, laughing, clowning or posing quietly for the camera.
And on this day, the anniversary of his death, I have to work at remembering the good times, the effort he expended every day of our short life together to make me happy, the unconditional love he brought to my life, the expanded world he made possible for me to enjoy, the kindness and generosity and gentleness I had never before experienced.
Sometimes I think if he hadn't given so much to me and the children, he might have had more for himself, have been left with more strength to go on and battle the demons that plagued him.
There was no note but he did leave all his affairs in order with great pains taken to protect me and the children. He knew, even if I didn't then, that I'd go on. And he knew, even though I didn't then, that I would come to understand and forgive. He knew all that because he knew I loved him.
Jim was an artist and when I see Eddie's pictures here - pictures of incredible sunsets across the Hudson River river - I imagine Jim is painting them - pink and orange and red - to make me smile and remember. Remember the best years of my life. Remember It was Jim who told me, when I pushed to move on from a glorious mountain view, to take time, to always take time for beauty to soak in and become a part of your soul.
Personal diaries here usually close with some words of wisdom. Lacking anything profound, all I can offer is tell them you love them every night because you never know what may come in the morning.
(Thanks to all of you for your generous responses and especially for sharing your stories and experiences.)
from steep rain in the comments:
The answers quick & keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
Dirge without music,
Edna St. Vincent Millay