In Search of Heaven
Do you ever feel lost?
Yep. I do. Lost and wandering.
Do you feel like you're searching for something, sometimes anything, but you don't know where to look?
I'm always searching. Always.
Do you ever feel like you want to share your story with the world?
Right here. Me. I want to share.
This week marks the 7-year anniversary of my first husband's death. For anyone who doesn't know me and my story, Michael was a wonderful husband and father. He had his quirks and could be difficult, stubborn, and impatient, but more importantly, he was kind, smart, and so loving. He was pretty damn amazing. (Just writing these words makes my heart cry because I still miss him so much.)
Michael and I had been together for 13 years when he got sick. He was misdiagnosed for 4 months while he jumped from doctor's office to doctor's office to ER's, to specialists, to week-long hospital stays, and then finally to landing at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts where we thought we'd found hope. After several days and tests and scans, Michael was finally diagnosed. He had Adenocarcinoma of the pancreas. Pancreatic cancer. And it was too late. There wasn't enough time. We couldn't even try to save his life. The best the doctors could do was make him comfortable. Michael died 8 days later.
For the past few months, I've known that my life is shifting. I have no idea what that actually means other than change is here and that I am on some sort of a new path. I don't know what that new path will bring, but I do trust it's good. My gut tells me so.
A couple of week's ago, I went camping at South Branch Pond in Baxter State Park. This campground is such a special part of my life. I've been going there since I was a kid, and when I had kids, I brought them there too.
South Branch is the only place on Earth where all 3 of the loves of my life have been. Yes, I have been lucky enough to have had three loves: Frank, Michael, and Ralph.
Each one of them has stood on the shore holding my hand. Each one of them has steered my canoe to the other side of the pond. Each one of them has listened to the generations of loons that have loved one another on that very water. Each one of them has loved me, and I have loved them all.
South Branch often ends up as the subject of my paintings. I call each piece "Heaven's Gate," and I add a number and sometimes a description. This pond and her mountains is what I imagine the outside of Heaven to be.
After this last trip, I came home and told Ralph I wanted a VW Camper Van. We've talked about travelling around the country in a Travado after he retires, but Baxter doesn't allow Travatos--they're too tall. But they do allow VW's.
Ralph is an expert researcher, so within 24 hours, he found a Volkswagen for me. And by that evening, we were on the phone with the owner, who lives in Oregon. We facetimed and found she and I have a ton in common. We both retired early from teaching. We're both artists. And most astonishingly, we're both widows. We're part of a club nobody ever wants to join. Without giving it a second thought, the owner told us the Volkswagen, "Hendricks," was ours.
On September 9th, I'm flying out to Portland, Oregon to pick up our future home, office, and studio on wheels, and I'm driving back to Maine. I'll be riding solo, and I'll be searching for more Gates of Heaven along the way. I'll be writing about it too. I can't wait to share my story with you.
Heaven isn't just an abstract thought. We can experience it here on Earth. It resides in between the folds of darkness. It breathes on the water and splashes our ankles and catches our breath. It echoes through canyons and caverns and slides down the body of great oaks and rests upon pillows of moss. It paints the world blue at dawn and glitters gold on the water at the end of a day. I catch Heaven whenever I think to stop long enough to be still and breathe. I breathe, and Heaven dances. I breathe, and Heaven sings. I breathe, and Heaven settles my breath and guides my heart so that I may simply be.