What feels the most painful to me in this moment is not my mind’s understanding of where or how Doug is, but rather something that I don’t think most people talk about, or maybe even think about – it is my body’s experience of loss, the profound absence of my body’s favorite companion.
Each of us had been single, intentionally, for more than five years. We’d focused on our personal healing and imagined we were preparing to meet someone with whom we would enjoy the quality of love that we had yearned for in previous relationships. This meant that each of us had experienced a derth of physical affection and the accompanying yearning for touch that only those who enjoy sharing physical affection and find themselves living alone for long periods of time can understand.
For me, someone who’d had a very contentious relationship with her body over the years, that sensation of “Ah, there you are,” was incredibly healing. My body felt seen, loved, respected, appreciated, empowered and safe as I lay beside Doug that first night. And those sensations never waned.
Doug and I enjoyed each other’s physical presence so much that, from the very beginning of our relationship, we rarely left each other’s side except to work. Even at work we would meet up in the hallway for a smooch and a hug, and we always held hands when walking from one place to the next, because it felt good. Occasionally someone would “catch” us smooching or hugging, expecting us to be embarrassed, but I always felt happy when that occurred because I believed that our joy could be contagious (and, from the emails, notes & messages I’ve received, I know that was true).
One of my coworkers told me that shortly after Doug’s cancer diagnosis she had seen us walking hand-in-hand in the parking lot and when Doug opened my door for me and we shared a kiss, she’d said to herself, “They’re going to be all right.” She could see and sense the warmth and love, (what I call “The Yummy”), between us and perceive its power.
Maybe my soul knew that Doug’s body would leave mine much sooner than we ever expected. At every opportunity, and for no reason other than it felt good, I focused my attention on the sensations of Doug’s lips against mine, our hands clasped loosely yet securely, my hands massaging his feet and his massaging mine (something we did every evening, just because), or my cheek resting on his strong, tattooed shoulder.
Such profound presence made it easy for me to remember how it felt when Doug touched me, when he spoke sincere, loving words to me, and when I gazed into his large, auburn-colored eyes, seeing in them a depth of appreciation I can scarcely describe. All of those sensations, and more, enliven my memory right now, as I type.
In the remembrance I feel a mixture of peaceful comfort in my heart, quiet in my mind and cold loneliness on my skin. My body remembers, in its own unique way. And it cries out, longing for its best friend and dearest lover.
A few months ago, when Doug and I were talking about how different
our life had become from what we had dreamed, Doug said this:
“Happiness also exists in the space between having and wanting.”
I sure hope he’s right.
Update: After I shared this post on my Facebook page, Doug's nurse, the wonderful Amanda Court, let me know it was she who was in Doug's room that day and she remembered Doug telling her, "Close your eyes or turn around. I'm going to touch my wife's butt now." :-D