As we prepared for our “house photo” with the Carters and our homeowners at the build site at the 33rd Annual Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project in Memphis with Habitat for Humanity, our house leader made an innocuous comment. “Look at all the dragonflies.” Then, last week, sitting at my favorite Chick-Fil-A in West Lake, there was another dragonfly, fluttering, perched on the window sill right by my table. Looking at me. A few days later, driving away from our home, there was another dragonfly. This time on my windshield. Almost guiding me forward. Out of the driveway. Into my day.
As I noted in my post on my way to Memphis with our son, Taylor, for a week with Habitat for Humanity from August 20-27, as we approach the 2 year mark of the passing of the love of my life, my Maureen, I’ve come to realize that my life is heading into a “new normal.” Each day is not only one more day without the love of my life by my side, but each day is a new day of a new life. A life informed by Maureen and my love. Like the dragonfly, I am being forced in see in new ways. With new eyes. With new facets. I will admit it is hard. I have always been open about my grief and about my journey. I do this both for the therapeutic effect it has for me, as well as to be vulnerable in a way that may be useful to a fellow journeyer through life, whether they have lost a loved one or not.
Over this Labor Day weekend, my daughter, Kyla, almost 15, noted that I have a row of pillows next to me on my bed in the morning. As I explained to her, her mom and I shared the same bed for almost 25 years. She was on the left. I was on the right. Just like our two spots in the columbarium at All Saint’s Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas. My urn will be in the niche on the right. It will hold my ashes one day, just like I was on the right side in our bed. Just like I was on Maureen’s right at Seton Hospital on the morning of October 21, 2014 when she passed. Now, however, I have pillows on my left. I hug them, so that when I dream, I can dream of hugging Maureen. It is how we slept. My right arm draped around her, and our hearts connected.
So, you may be wondering what do pillows and dragonflies have to do with each other? As I noted in my first post on dragonflies at the end of August last year:
“The dragonfly can ‘see’ in dimensions that we as humans can not. Dragonflies have what are known as compound eyes. In addition to the compound structure that allows the dragonfly to see up, down and behind them, their retinas can see more than just the red, blue, and green of a human eye. The dragonfly can not only see four or five different colors, many that are beyond human capability, but they have more facets by which to process these images. Equally interesting is the brain power of the dragonfly that is dedicated to its sight. Not only does the dragonfly eye allow it to see 360 degrees around it, but 80% of its brain power is dedicated to sight. The dragonfly, in almost every part of the world, symbolizes change and change in perspective.“
The dragonflies over the past few weeks seem to be calling out to me to see things in a new light. I always try to be Maureen’s eyes here on earth, so she can “see” things from heaven. I believe she is using the dragonfly to be my eyes there in heaven. It is as if she is calling out to me, reminding me, reminding the kids to see this world for its unbelievable beauty. She may no longer be next to me physically, but she is still very much a part of my life, even without the pillows. She is with us in the beauty that is our world. The trees. The clouds. The sunsets. Everything.
That is the thing about grief. It blinds you. You see things from one dimension, the dimension of loss. But, like the dragonflies at the beach in Alabama last year, the dragonflies at the Habitat for Humanity build in Memphis a couple of weeks ago, and all of the dragonflies in between, there are so many more dimensions by which we can see. Sometimes all we need is a change in perspective, and we see everything in a new light.
That light was on full display in this amazing picture taken by Ezra Millstein, a photographer for Habitat for Humanity International. His amazing photo closes out the wonderful news piece done by Erin Cargile and her team at KXAN News on our return to Austin last Sunday. I was so blessed to be with Maureen and our son, Taylor, for a whole week in Memphis. As he enters his senior year and prepares for college, it gave us a chance to see our relationship in a new light, too. I know his mom is helping him see the world in all its beauty, just like she is me and his sisters.