My husband Fred died a year ago today. In 2002, after my mother and mother-in-law both died of cancer within months of each other, I started a ritual for the dead which may sound crazy to some people, but it works for me. Fred and I went to a cliff overlooking Nye Beach and we blew bubbles, watching them float out over the sand toward the ocean. Some popped on the fence or the grass nearby, but others soared until they disappeared into the sky. With these bubbles, we said goodbye. We set our mothers’ spirits free.
When Fred passed away, I couldn’t do that. It was just too hard. But now, maybe I could. As the anniversary approached, I thought about places I could go to blow bubbles. Yaquina Bridge? Yaquina Head, where Fred loved to watch the sea birds? The aquarium? The cemetery?
I didn’t choose any of those.
Yesterday afternoon, a gorgeous sunny day with a light breeze, I felt drawn to our own backyard. Our deck feels like a stage looking out over the vast lawn. Fred was my biggest fan, always out there in the audience clapping harder than anyone. I used to end each performance with “Wind Beneath My Wings,” dedicated to Fred. So I got out my guitar and sang and played some of his favorite songs, including “Wind Beneath My Wings.” I followed it with “Shoes Full of Sand,” a song I wrote for him when we first fell in love. And then, I got out the 99 cent bottle of Mr. Bubble. Those bubbles caught on the breeze, flew up over the house and into the sky as I thanked God for giving me Fred and thanked Fred for everything he had given me. I didn’t say goodbye. I wished him well on his journey and told him I hoped to see him again someday.
In that moment, I realized we were only meant to be together for a while. We walked the same path, but eventually we had to separate, to take our own paths. Before he left, Fred gave me everything I would need to continue on my own. He gave me money, our house, my car, and so many other material things that I would never be able to afford without him. He took me on trips to wonderful places that I might never have seen. But he also gave me the kind of love most people never know. He made me feel special, worthy, and strong. Fred loved life and he didn’t wear himself out worrying about the small stuff. He taught me that.
Fred did not give me children of my own. By the time we met, he had finished that stage of life, but he shared the ones he had with me, just as he shared everything, for as long as he could.
In making me Fred’s caregiver through his long illness, God gave me new wisdom, a kinder heart and an understanding that our time here is temporary.
Let’s drink a glass of red wine—it has to be red, preferably dry—to Fred tonight. Next time we see a rainbow-tinted bubble floating in the air, let’s think of Fred and smile.