I heard her humming as I worked in the kitchen. I only caught snatches of the tune, as she danced around the house – always in motion, always so busy — and couldn’t quite put it all together. I followed the drifting melody into the classroom, where she’d finally lighted in her chair to read. Sprawled sideways, one leg flung over the arm of the chair, my little mini-Kev hummed absently as her thumb and finger rubbed the corner of each page, then turned it carefully.
I stood silent in the doorway and listened.
La Vie en Rose.
The life of rosy hues. Of beauty and love and hope.
She looked up and saw me.
“What’re you doing, Mama?” she asked curiously.
“Just listening to you, Little Bear. I like the song you’re humming.”
Her eyes sparkled. Her Daddy’s slow grin spread across her face.
“I heard it when you played that French CD,” she offered.
In a blatant cultural mashup, I’d had the sudden urge to listen to a CD of French songs while making scones earlier in the day. Kevin gave it to me one year for Valentine’s Day, and it seemed a good choice because I wanted something lilting, something to chase away the winter, something… joie de vivre.
Joy of living.
When he takes me in his arms
He speaks to me in a low voice,
I see life as if it were rose-tinted.
He whispers words to declare to me his love
Words of the everyday
And that does something to me
The hardest morning of my life was the day after Kevin died and I woke up to the devastating emptiness of life without him. I had his pillow, filled with my tears, and our daughter, filled with his spirit. But I didn’t have the life I’d had the day before, the life where every day had joy, the one where even moments of terrifying sadness were filtered through the love we shared and it always felt like everything would be okay…we would be okay. His whispers of love did something to me – he made me believe we would always find the joy in living.
He has entered into my heart
A piece of happiness
the cause of which I know full well.
It’s him for me, me for him in life
He said that to me, swore to me forever
In the days and months after, I struggled. I couldn’t find any joy in anything. I was too numb to feel, then when that wore off, the searing pain of being without him left me gasping and crying and screaming for him to come back. I felt nothing in-between – it was unfeeling coldness or agonizing loneliness.
And then one day, I woke up and my Bear giggled in her sleep and I felt that space in between. There is a place between the numbness and pain, I’ve found. A place of calm; not peace, really, but a place of stillness. There’s something like strength here, and something like hope. It’s a place to catch my breath…for just a moment, and I need that place sometimes because I need to breathe. When the grief bears down, I hold myself together with prayers and tears until I can crawl to the in-between for rest. The holidays, my girl’s birthday – getting through those without Kevin drained me of the energy I needed to keep on, to be in this new year without him. I treasure the in-between, because the other — the numbness and searing pain — they’re still here; I feel a version of them each day because I always miss him. But in the in-between, joy and hope rise a little higher than the grief and pain. They’ll be back, I know, because grief ebbs then crashes back in. But in the in-between, I can breathe. And I can laugh and dream and enjoy the enchantment that is my Bear. I can drift and wait and find pieces of joy and cope.
I can find joie de vivre. Joy of living.
And from the things that I sense,
Now I can feel within me
My heart that beats.
I feel it in my little girl’s humming of a most charming song, and the lilting pattern of her notes feels like bits of happy floating dreamily in the air.
I see it in the crystal vase of pink tulips sitting in the window, delicate petals bravely spreading out, hiding the dead winterscape of broken branches, broken dreams, offering beauty and healing.
Joy of living.
She turned back to her book and I turned back to the dishes in the kitchen.
And we filled the in-between with the hum of life.
La vie en rose.