By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published February 8, 2018
The leaf is in my bedside table and is still intact after two and a half years. The color has faded a bit, but it still retains its shape and perches upon my hand in a friendly, but mysterious way, when I take it out.
When I came home from the hospital on the day my husband died, I was carrying a large plastic bag in which were his shoes, shirt, shorts, wallet and the large silver crucifix he wore every day.
Out of habit, I looked in the pocket of the shirt and found the leaf. I turned it over, mystified.
Why in the world would he have put an ordinary leaf in his pocket? I can understand collecting a shell from the beach—but a leaf?
It couldn’t have happened accidentally because the pocket was too small for a leaf to just find its own way in.
I decided there would be no answer to this mystery, but the leaf became a souvenir of his love for me.
As Valentine’s Day draws closer, my thoughts travel to the times we celebrated this day together.
There would be chocolate truffles and cookies, accompanied by ice cream and champagne.
He scoffed at the notion of buying cards, since he could so easily create his own, so there’d also be a handmade card, signed by him and the cats—and in later years by him and the hamster.
It’s taken me awhile to realize love doesn’t end when someone dies.
In “By Grief Refined,” Alice von Hildebrand comforts a widow by telling her, “You do not doubt the immortality of the soul; you know that your dearest Jim still is. … He has not vanished into nothingness.”
She goes on to say, “He remains very close to you in the eloquent mystery of silence.”
I have to admit that I still talk to Jef at times and say goodnight before falling asleep.
I also ask him to pray for me, and credit his prayers, along with those of friends, with the healing I’ve experienced since his death.
Now that so many months have passed, there are times I contemplate getting married again.
At first, the thought seemed a betrayal of my late husband. Wasn’t I supposed to show my love for him by continuing to grieve?
The answer is no, because he wouldn’t want me to continue suffering. He’d want me to heal. And perhaps he’s even searching around looking for someone I might love again.
“Usually the person who is granted another great love,” says von Hildebrand, “credits his loved one in eternity for sending the new love.”
For a long time, all I wanted was to die, so I could be reunited with Jef. My life seemed pointless without him, until I realized how many others were grieving too—and were comforted by my columns.
Each day, I walk on the same street where my husband was found after his heart attack. A neighbor there showed me the ivy-tangled spot where he was lying.
I often stop and study the ground, searching for other leaves resembling the souvenir he left me.
So far, I haven’t found another leaf like it. Maybe, while he was walking, he felt ill, and maybe he picked up the leaf on another street and put it in his pocket as a token of love that I would find.
Maybe he knew the leaf would last quite a while. Maybe he could see that I’d cherish it, and take it out now and again, and examine it.
There won’t be a card from him this year, nor will there be chocolates and flowers.
But I have something much better, the realization that he will always love me—and pray for me—and continue to watch over me.
And the leaf remains a reminder that love goes on, but it changes over time.
Artwork (“The Tryst,” oil painting) by Jef Murray (www.jefmurray.com). You may contact Lorraine for information on purchasing his artwork at firstname.lastname@example.org.