Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Turn in the Journey

The journey has taken a surprising turn.

In short,

I’ve met someone.

Yes, it’s that kind of “met” and that kind of “someone.” It’s not a cloaking euphemism with a surprise meaning. It’s as in, a relationship. And yes, it’s unexpected. Out of the blue. From the blind side. And it’s a beautiful, wonderful thing.

Let me pause for a moment to let you get used to the idea.

Actually, this whole post may be a pause to let you get used to the idea. No pictures. No detailed story. In fact, I’M still getting used to the idea.

I’m not sure exactly how to bring you up to speed. So, let me start with Dana. A few posts ago I posed the question: What does the best loved man in the world do when he’s lost the source of that love? My knee-jerk reaction to that question has simply been: He curls up into a fetal position and stays there. It’s that simple. Luckily, that was only a knee-jerk reaction and not the more seasoned response that came rather quickly. While I think there are several answers to that question, the one that came to me early on, and seems to have some staying power, is simply this: I will love well. I know what it feels like to be gloriously loved. I know what it feels like to love deeply. I will take that knowledge, that growth, that insight, and I will infuse it with any relationship of love I experience, whether romantic, family, friends, or pet (Pud is looking over my shoulder; of course, “pet” would be included anyway ).

As Dana and I navigated the waters of recurrent breast cancer, we chose to keep our little boat floating in the current of hope. Some folks take the approach of writing goodbye letters to loved ones (ala, Elizabeth Edwards) and preparing for the end game. We chose the route of hope: either that God would do some wild and crazy thing or that we would skate through on the tiny statistical sliver that recurrent breast cancer offers as a tease. We knew the odds were against us and that we’d be battling this for life for however long; but we let hope rule the day. It’s not a bad way to travel and I must say, we did not miss one lick of life through the battle.

With that in mind, you can get a sense of the gravity of the most serious conversation Dana and I had regarding life without her. It went something like this:

Dane: Bear, if anything happens to me, I would want you to be happy. And I know that means love. And I know that means marriage. And I want you to be happy.
Bear: Same here. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. And I would want you to be happy.

We reflected. We cried. We basked in the beautiful, glorious love that we had. We couldn’t imagine that it would ever end.

As we all know, the relationship has ended. But the love never will.

That conversation haunted me since the moment it was over. But no more. It makes me smile. And I’m happy.

This past May a good friend of Dana’s and mine, Lois Bock, sent me an email saying she had a friend, Jessica Rivera, who was an opera soprano and would be rehearsing and performing with the Cincinnati Opera in the month of June. Lois, who lost her dear husband Fred 13 years ago this past July, suggested that I might enjoy coffee with Jessica and that she could probably get me a ticket to the opera. Because there is a high level of trust between widows and widowers, I knew this wasn’t a “set up” and felt comfortable about the connection. Lois even back-channeled to Mama Sue that this definitely was NOT a set up--but an opportunity for me to get out of the house and add some opera culture to this journey of mine. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Jessica was cute (opera sopranos have websites!). So, I was game.

Within a few days of Jessica arriving in Cincinnati, we met for supper.

And then we met for June.

We both obviously felt very safe with each other, which may have been the soft soil that let feelings take root. I knew that Jessica was committed to her singing career, and in our first supper conversation she joked about turning off the “husband search” switch a few years ago and comfortably accepting who she is and what she is able to do. I shared about living off the love of Dane for the rest of my life and being very okay with that. Since I had such a high standard of love, I was sure I’d never experience it again.

Over the course of the few days after that first supper, we looked for times when our free time overlapped. And after a week of overlapping free time (which included baking a cake for my mom’s birthday!), we knew there was something good going on.

Once we acknowledged to each other, almost in unison, that “this is good,” we morphed from casually pursuing free time to intentionally pursuing relationship. Or at least I was pursuing her, and she was running slowly. In fact, her forward movement was imperceptible, she would admit.

When you have loved and lost, you learn things about love that you would not have learned otherwise. Obviously, I’d rather not learn those things. But since I’m here, I might as well take advantage of my position. And to be honest, I’ve been content to learn those things about love and just sit on them, not knowing if they would ever see the light of day.

They are seeing light. And it’s rather radiant.

Some of you “busted me out” from my last post, reading between the lines of “Is ‘Moving On’ Overrated?” For some it was a post that made you go “hmmm…” Others of you pinged me with, “So, anything you need to tell me?” Some of you thought it’s now a matter of time. I am blessed with smart, discerning friends!

I’m actually quite blown away at the concurrence of entertaining thoughts about “moving” or “repurposing” (I’m still running the contest to replace the phrase “moving on”) and the budding of relationship. Yes, my June had already happened when I posted, but the “moving” thoughts had been bubbling up for a couple months. Maybe the presence of someone in my life gave me the resolve to embrace “moving”? Or maybe my embryonic resolve of “moving” made room for the presence of someone in my life? Who knows? (God, of course, knows. In fact, I think that God, along with Dana, are having a private joke. I have evidence to prove it...more on that as we blog along this journey.)

This may be enough for now. There’s something, though, that I want to add. Some may say, “Okay, Barry’s met someone, he’s taken care of. Time to quit following the blog. I can take him off my prayer list.” To which I would respond: Please don’t. The journey continues. I am still mining out all that God wants to teach me about love, loss, and living through that loss. I am still collecting God stamps. I, along with you, am still remembering and honoring Dana. I am still probing my journey for how it may help others. I am exploring how best to live out 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 which says:

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of
compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so
that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive
from God.

I can honestly say that I have received more than my fair share of comfort in my troubles. It is my personal act of obedience, then, to comfort those in their trouble. This, I think, is the ultimate “pay it forward.” I covet your prayers for this. I may need you now more than ever in observing this journey.

Thank you!


P.S. By the way, as you might expect, it's a little strange sharing this kind of personal information in an impersonal blog post. I feel I should be having face-to-face conversations with all who might be reading. But I'm glad we have this channel, and this is all certainly a part of the journey. Feel free to drop me a note!