Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Love Before Grief

In grief we focus on how a relationship ends and all of the sorrow. We forget how the relationship began, the uncertainties, our timidity, the rush of excitement. Our utter delight and joy. In addition to thinking about the larger context of grief and death in society, it’s also important to remember our personal stories of heart. This is how Evelyn and I began.


I first saw Evelyn at a conference in Santa Rosa, a year after I moved from Wisconsin to California for graduate school. She was singing a solo while I was performing short dramas in a mime troupe. (I know what you’re thinking. It’s okay. I studied classical Balinese mime with Leonard Pitt.) The power and purity of her voice spun my head around to watch a beautiful, young woman. She noticed me, too, and wondered what lay beneath my rainbow suspenders. I took note, but didn’t know who to ask to introduce us.
As we were packing up to leave, one of my troupe members asked if we minded giving someone named “Evelyn” a ride to her hotel. And it was her, the singer. For all of us to fit into the car, several of us scrunched into the back seat and I had to put my arm over her shoulders. I was thrilled.

A month later the mime troupe performed at Lakeshore Church and used my writing about celebrating joy. Evelyn happened to be the narrator. As we rehearsed, she kept asking me if she was reading the parts right, if she had the right emphasis and cadence. I was touched, and a little flustered, that she wanted to take such care with my words.

Shortly after this, I went on a ski trip with mutual friends and Evelyn was there. We elected not to ski that day and went for a hike through the snow together, talking in depth for the first time as we walked on a path overlooking Lake Tahoe. We found a swing set half buried in the snow and swung for a time not saying much, just looking at each other and smiling, looking at the lake, then looking at each other again. Evelyn was beaming with joy about something. When the weekend was over and we headed for separate cars to go home, she gave me a hug.

In January, after three months of wondering if Evelyn was interested in me, I gathered my courage and asked her out. She said she had been waiting.

I invited her on a date. Because I was living in student housing, I had two hot plates, which meant that cooking a meal was out of the question. I also didn’t have a car, and while public transportation in the Bay Area was decent, it didn’t go to the Italian restaurant I selected. So Evelyn picked me up and we drove to Solano Avenue in nearby Albany. After dinner we went to a movie further down the street. Afterwards, as we were walking back to the car, I reached over and held her hand. She looked up at me with a big grin. When she dropped me off at my place, she leaned over for our first kiss.

We saw each other every week after that, often hanging out with my friends at LaVal’s Pizza on Berkeley’s north side. We talked on the phone for hours, filling each other in on our lives. We went to movies at the new Cineplex in Hayward, a Buster Keaton filmathon, ski outings and trips to Yosemite with a group from school. A few restaurants became our favorites, like Strizzi’s in San Leandro with its Rigatoni Bolognaise, Ruby’s CafĂ© for Kung Pao chicken, and Duffy’s hand-packed ice cream.

Even though I had never met anyone like Evelyn, and someone who also wanted to be with me, it would take me three years to propose. Looking back, I realize that I was oblivious to all the signals she was giving. I was slow, not responding to what is in front of me, because back then I didn’t trust my emotions. 

We were married for eighteen years, and it wasn't nearly long enough.


  1. I love your sweet story about how the two of you met and fell in love. I used to tell my husband that it was 'fate' or syncronicity, that we met. But he said he didn't believe in those things. It sounds like the two of you were meant to be together. And you are right, it was not long enough. It never is. xx

    1. No, it's never long enough, whether it's one year, five years, eighteen, or sixty. When we love someone we want it to be forever.