I was walking the dog yesterday, which just happened to be Valentine’s Day. This was a day we always celebrated with great enthusiasm and joy, sharing gifts and cards every day for a week, culminating in the “primary” gift and card on the day itself. We made a game of collecting the best greeting cards throughout the year, and deeply enjoyed sharing them.
This was, of course, my first Valentine’s without her since 1999, and I was all prepped to suffer through every moment of it, but was, instead, having quite a spectacular day. I began it with a Facebook post expressing deep gratitude rather than another lonely lament, and life began rewarding me for that almost immediately. From the beginning, I felt as if Jacquelynn were herself gifting me with these moments of joy.
It was during my walk with Sky that maybe the best part of an already great day came to me; her voice in my head, essentially dictating a letter to me. “Write what I tell you to write”, she seemed to be telling me, and the first paragraph was emblazoned on my mind at that moment. All I needed to do was begin to write, and the rest would follow.
That letter follows, for what it’s worth. The typing was done by me, but I honestly believe the words come from her. At the very least, she inspired every word, and I know her voice and heart better than anyone else. This just feels like her.
My Dearest Matthew,
I hope you can take this to heart, in your grief. I see what you’re feeling, and I’m so pleased that you are doing a little better and getting back into the swing of life. You need people around you, much as you like to imagine yourself as a loner. You have always thrived on your relationships, and I’m glad to see you developing friendships again.
Please, please know how much I have always loved you. You’re finding all sorts of evidence of that as you clean and pack up the house. I’m trying to make certain you find these things at the most appropriate and necessary times, to bring you comfort and joy rather than more fear and grief. Take these tokens and memories and reminders to heart and hold our love close. Read that again; hold our love close, but do NOT lose yourself in loss. The only thing you’ve lost is my physical companionship, and that’s plenty difficult enough. But you haven’t lost ME, and you know that. I’m with you now, helping you type this letter, and I’ll always be here, at your side and in your heart, where I have always been. Don’t grieve what has not been lost.
I know it’s hard for you to think of yourself this way, but you really are my hero. I know that as my illness claimed more and more of me, you came to deeply doubt your service to me, disputing the idea that you were truly of any help at all. It’s time for you to let go of that doubt. If you look inside, you know you saved me. Not in the way we envisioned, of course; we won’t be dancing together or walking along the beach again anytime soon. But in the ways that truly matter, you did save me. You saved me from dying alone and forgotten. You helped to give me many more months of lucidity and love before it simply became too much for any one person, out on an island like you were, to handle on their own. I’m not angry about that, either; moving me to the nursing home. Honestly, I’m grateful because that moved saved you. I don’t think you would have survived last spring with me there, your self-care had so declined. The real Jacquelynn, the one trapped behind the illness, never wanted you to sacrifice yourself for me.
I just wanted you to love me, which you did more and longer and better than any other man ever could have. You gave all of yourself to me, for me, and I thank you.
You should be so proud of yourself, Matthew. Proud of your sacrifices, proud of your accomplishments, and proud of your strength. The only person who doesn’t seem to recognize this is you. Even the nurses and aides at the nursing home (I LOVED some of them so much!) were blown away by your love and dedication to me. Even now, I truly don’t understand what I did to warrant such commitment.
But I do know that I’d have done the same, to the best of my abilities, if the tables were turned.
I feel I owe you so many apologies and explanations, but that time has passed. So instead I send you my love, eternal and unlimited love, and my deepest gratitude.
Thank you, my Handsome Matthew.
I will always be right here. Wearing that smile you always told me you loved so much.
I will always be