At lunch with friends in Scottsdale last week, I shared something I’d not revealed to anyone else: I took off my wedding rings in early January. Mike died almost 6 1/2 years ago. I don’t have any interest in trying to re-create the magic we had with anyone else and I’ve worn my rings since the day after his funeral thanks to a leering man I encountered in one of my grief-induced book store runs.
But I’ve been aware of those rings for months now in a way I had not been in the previous years, and so I took them off. Then I felt bad and put them on. One of them spins around on my finger and I’m always hitting things with the lump on the palm of my hand. I took them off again. I heard his voice: “We are forever, baby, rings or not.” So I took them off yet again.
It crossed my mind this might be time for a tattoo. Maybe one in white, so subtle: the initials JMC, and on the other side of my ring finger, always. Because he and I are for always and whatever way our shiny little aspects of the Whole show up together in human life — whether husband and wife, mother and daughter, sister and brother, friend and friend — our souls are connected always by big Love. We are one soul (hint: we all are).
I ultimately discarded the idea of a tattoo though I am certain Mike would have loved it. He’d tattooed a colorful parrot in a sunset on the left side of his chest after we bought our Mexico house. It was a celebration and also a cover-up for a post-divorce crying rose inked by a one-legged biker named Lefty.
And then late one night I saw something that caught my eye. It was actually called a “lovebirds” ring. What? Mike and I laughingly called ourselves lovebirds. We had a history of comparing ourselves to mourning doves. For years a pair of doves nested on the window ledge of our back room. Their solicitousness with one another was so sweet to watch. They fed each other, built their nest as a team, shared care of the hatchlings. They mate for life. If we’d ever envisioned spirit birds for our relationship, it would have been those doves.
So there it was at midnight, a silver ring with etched birds. It was perfect, with a back large enough for an inscription. I felt led to that ring and it jumped out at me, so as I was sharing this ring-related off-on-off-should-I-shouldn’t-I dilemma with my friends, talking about the complexity of the decision to take off my rings, there was Mike with a musical message.
I had just finished telling the story — literally last word, just closed my mouth — when the music at Pita Jungle switched to “Crazy Love.” It was one of our very special songs. Van Morrison’s version was a favorite. Lisa said, “do you hear that?” And I could suddenly hear it with a clarity which had been missing in the previous hour’s background noise. That’s how they work in spirit, drawing our attention to the messages they send.
I can hear her heart beat for a thousand miles
And the heavens open every time she smiles
And when I come to her that’s where I belong
Of course. It was perfect. Just the confirmation I needed that rings/no rings, we are inseparable.
As I sat in my car before leaving the restaurant, I wanted to hear that song again, so I found it on Spotify, listened closely to the words, and remembered my sweet husband. It was a strong connection with him, heart to heart.
And so what next? On the heels of Crazy Love, just to be sure I was paying attention, and because Mike always made me laugh, a hilarious John Prine song called “In Spite of Ourselves.“ Though we were John Prine maniacs, Mike and I, I’d not heard this song in two decades. There’s no John Prine on my Spotify list.
As is the case with spirit, the words could not have been more perfect.
In spite of ourselves we’ll end up a-sittin’ on a rainbow
Against all odds, honey, we’re the big door-prize
There won’t be nothin’ but big ol’ hearts dancin’ in our eyes…
Our loved ones are constantly trying to get through to us, to let us know that we are not alone in a life which often seems long and sometimes lonely. There are messages all around us, messages out of the Crazy Love that makes separation impossible.
They are, truly, still right here. We can’t always feel their presence while we’re wearing these human suits, but we can be on the alert for and welcome the messages that they send. In Spite of Ourselves — and the obtuseness that’s inherent in wearing a human suit — they’ll continue to send gifts to us like breadcrumbs dropped in a forest; little markers leading us back to them, back to our true Home.
I know my baby was delighted for me that afternoon. I imagine he made that lovebirds ring jump out at me. I know he maneuvered things so I’d hear those two songs which had such meaning. And just to be sure I didn’t miss it, a few minutes after leaving the parking lot, Crazy Love played again on a random playlist not my own, by an artist I never listen to. Well done, Michael.
What I’ve received from Mike so often in the last year or two has been a sense of delight, his joy in my getting better. I can’t forget his laughter last April as I scattered his ashes on a beach in Mexico. “This is great honey, but you know that’s not me.” All of our people rejoice when we begin to recover because they know the truth: “In spite of ourselves we’ll end up a-sittin’ on a rainbow.”
Mike-O, my sweetest heart. Thank you.