April is a kaleidoscope month with beautiful patterns and disturbing images. Rain and clouds bring sad thoughts. Storms can light the skies and simultaneously startle us with heart stopping thunder, wind, hail, and tornadoes. Along with spring comes a period of renewed hope when dazzling sunshine warms the ground and flowers, mushrooms, and foliage cover the earth with a lush blanket of beauty.
April is a month of memories for me. It was on a hot day in April when Jim left his body behind and went to a place where he could be whole again. April rain falls in my heart when I allow myself to remember those days of April when he was ready to leave, but I wasn’t ready to let go.
Perhaps, in lieu of sad thoughts I’ve packed April with activities. This month is full of conferences, meetings, and my annual trip to Washington DC to advocate for Alzheimer’s.
Saturday, I drove to Kansas City for an inspirational breakfast and spent the morning with some amazing women. We each introduced ourselves and talked about our first job and the most innovative thing in the workplace. We shared laughter and memories of those jobs and discussed how far the business world has advanced over the years.
Was it the talk of old times turned my thoughts to the past? Or was it just that this is April? The rush of memories expressed themselves with April rain flowing from my eyes and I made the decision to stop at the cemetery on my way home.
I pulled off the interstate when I saw the sign for the Missouri Veterans Cemetery at Higginsville. I stopped at Walmart hoping to find some flowers and instead settled for a colorful plant in a pot decorated with two birds facing each other. As I left Walmart, I drove through McDonalds and bought a cheeseburger and fries.
A few miles out of town, I pulled through the gate into the cemetery and drove to the columbarium. I had the peaceful, quiet cemetery all to myself.
I shared my water with the plant and placed it beneath Jim’s memorial. I sat on a bench and ate my lunch while I reflected on our life together. Jim would have looked forward to my impending retirement and trips to see family and friends. He would have wanted to spend time animal watching in the Rocky Mountains he grew to love so much. He would have been so proud of our children and grandchildren. He would have loved showing the grandkids his childhood places and sharing his stories and memories. That was what made Jim, Jim. We would have spent time having those soul-searching conversations about life, death, and the time between. Time. We ran out of it.
I sat on the bench reminiscing when I heard a sound behind me, breaking the silence. I turned to see…nothing but the committal shelter, with the flags flying high in front of it. I heard the noise again and realized it was the flags flapping in the breeze.
Jim’s physical presence has been gone for eight years. Not a day goes by without thoughts of Jim. He is imprinted on my heart where he’ll always share a part of my being. Was he perfect? No. But in many ways, he was perfect for me, and we seemed to complete each other.
After my time alone with Jim and our memories, I drove away. The tears vanished, and I thought about how fortunate my life has been. I’ve learned to be independent and comfortable in my skin. Loneliness and sadness visit only occasionally—as unexpected and quick as the lightening of an April storm.
I have lived a full and rich life that began on a December day in Hawaii when I married Jim. Our time together began on an April day when he returned from Vietnam and ended on another April day thirty-five years later.
Our time together ended, but life goes on for me. I plan to enjoy many years of fun, laughter, and joy. Family and friends are the essence of life, and they provide circles of love without beginning or end.