Live to be 91. This is the hearty number of years he would’ve wished for you, even if it meant that nine of them would be lived without him. He will know how to wait. Try to remember a time before him. You were just as whole — which seems impossible to fathom, given how full you felt with him near, but it’s true. If you were not, he would not have sought you, found the echoing hollow near your neck and whispered revolution behind the first of many theater curtains. You were always fully his and fully your own. This is true, even now that he’s gone.
Be the matinee idol next door, embodying housewives and grandmothers, Shakespearean shrews and slave women, while coming home to a husband who is writing you lines while you cook him dinner. You are rarely cast as the tragic beauty, nor the cleavage-baring vamp. You do not purr in leotards, are no dancing darling dashing off to the cabarets of France. But a stagecoach is as essential as a rollercoaster. We need long and stable passage more than the adrenaline thrill of a route that ends too soon. This has been why you are so beloved; you are approachable as our own matriarchs, as accessible as every brilliant woman any man worth his salt has been wise and lucky enough to adore.
Laugh at the young folks idealizing your love, wondering aloud how you can possibly go on. Oh, the nights! How long and cold they must seem without the heft of a 57-year love on the other side of the bed! They do not know it all. Even the most glorious partners snore or break wind or talk about someone else they’re romancing in their sleep. And these are not the only nights you’ve slept alone. Besides, don’t these young ones know that you witnessed and weathered and railed against worse horrors together than the inevitable ache of Death willing you apart?
Keep going because he left you marching orders. Look at the children and find him; he is right there, in the ardor of those eyes, in the firmness of their embrace, in their booming laughter. Not every widow and widower is afforded such auspice. Some are wrenched from one another without the least bit of warning. Some are left wondering what long lives would’ve wrought. You are living well and with no end of grace, in part for them.
In brief, be a bit like Ruby Dee: a warrior in your own right, who can conjure the besotted gaze of a newlywed as easily as the stern and steely glare of a no-nonsense elder; an actress, as unwilling to neatly fold away her hurt as to primly pretend she hasn’t dived a thousand leagues’ depth into passion. It all preserves you, loss and love, when you let it. And if you are open-handed, the balm of it protects everyone else you touch.
Then one day, when you are ready and the Good Lord wills, just go to him, like you always have, willing and aimed toward the next great adventure.
Don’t ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it. ― Toni Morrison, Jazz