When I left the hospital after my husband's death, I knew I walked away without part of my soul.
Marriage vows say, "as long as we both shall live," or the equivalent. I will tell you, those words weren't a reflection of my heart that cold, dark morning. Ray was gone, and a serious portion of me was gone with him. The misty drizzle didn't help, and our small town was as quiet as a tomb. I was already wondering why I was still there, breathing, knowing my existence was pointless without him.
We had an unusual start. I was captivated by him, and worked up the nerve to say something. Our first date was that very night, and we talked and laughed and cried all night, for a full fourteen hours. Our conversation covered everything truly important, and at the end of it, we hadn't discussed favorite foods, movies, or mindless trivia. But, we did "go deep" about God, marriage, family, sex, humor, and how our values had developed. We listened to all the music he had in his car, cried about people we had lost, and laughed hard. We stood in the cold, and looked at the stars in the middle of farm country, and tried walking in-step through a casino where we went for a meal, which was funny because his legs were so long compared to mine.
It was an amazing date, and the first date I had ever been on, though I was thirty-six years old. There were kisses, and tight hugs in which we clung to each other like our lives depended on it. He even kissed me once, dipping me back romantically just as they do in the movies. I was swept off my feet by his vulnerable heart, sense of humor, and elegance.
He took me home on his way to work, and I prayed I would get to see him again, hoped so hard I didn't screw up completely by talking too much. I thanked God for the date, and told him that I would never forget it.
Ray called during his break, and asked me if I would like to go to Reno with him for dinner. I was ecstatic, and it did not seem odd, because we were less than two hours away. (Our first date had been even farther away than that.)
We almost married that night, then thought we should wait a week to let our families know. However, we didn't make it that week, and married only four days after our first date. It was intimate, with only the two of us and a minister, with hand-crafted cream soda to share a toast.
We had nine years, and went through enough to write several books, but there was always love, and we never argued even ONCE. One week after our nine-year-anniversary was Ray's seventy-ninth birthday, and I made a cake for him with Peep chicks and bunnies, joking that, "What man doesn't want a bunch of sweet chicks and bunnies for his birthday?"...
He loved that cake. I cut a piece for him, and he gave it a look, then pulled the rest of the cake over and began to dig into THAT.
Less than twenty-four hours later, he had a hemorrhagic brain bleed that was too severe for hope, and within a few hours, he was gone.
Laugh, cry, call the psychologist, but I began to talk to the remaining Peeps on my husband's still-fresh birthday cake. They have no mouths, no expression, yet were bright, alert, and didn't try to tell me any unbelievable, lame-ass bullshit everyone says because they have NO IDEA what to say.
They just listen, and I told them they were safe, no one would eat them, because Ray wasn't coming back, and I really, truly had no appetite for anything but salted lemons and black coffee. (Do not judge me, at least I was eating something, right?)
So, what happened next? My married neighbor sexually assaulted me, and that is an entirely separate story, but my grieving process went into a spiral as I tried to deal.
I was angry each day I woke up. Life was over, so why was I STILL here? I couldn't feel right, and couldn't pray worth a damn.
Then, one day, I went into my kitchen where food was no longer prepared, because I was the only living being in the building, so what's the point? I could smell the fragrance of onions... so I opened the cupboard where they were kept, and right on top was this beautifully sprouted onion. It was growing, there in the dark, sustaining itself on whatever it had within itself. I thought, "It wants to live," and I picked it up.
I sat it on the counter near the Peeps I had removed from the cake I'd been forced to finally discard, and feeling silly, I introduced the onion to the Peeps.
"Onion, these are my Peeps..."
I laughed hard. I felt some deranged kind of happiness. I felt a little less alone.
Ray and I didn't have houseplants, and here was this determined onion. I decided right then to give it every chance, and took a picture. I looked in the cupboard, and found another onion that wanted to join us, with the first tips of green coming out.
They were both with me for months. I gave them their own little window in the dining area, and water. As I began to prepare food again, for myself or a visiting friend, I would use some of the greens to adorn our dishes.
It was a small thing, my Peeps and onions, yet I won't forget their comfort and hope.