The blackbirds beckoned me toward the woods, reminding me of the autumns we spent under their myriad voices, flocked together to signal the change of season. I was going anyway, with the confluence of All Saints’ Day and Deer Opener, my first as an actual widow, rather than the jokingly named Hunting Widow. But the birds seemed to call “now”, and I obeyed.
Donning his hideously orange vest, I stuffed its pockets with the bottle of vodka I found hidden in a downstairs bedroom and the cardboard box containing his ashes, unsure what I’d do with either. I headed across the creek in search of his deer stand. Finding it farther than I remembered, it stuck forlornly to its tree, missing its regular occupant almost as much as I do. I climbed gingerly, balancing his ashes in one hand, gripping the ladder rungs with the other.
Sitting in his perch, I pulled the vodka from its masking bag. “You didn’t have to hide from me,” I told him. “I love you no matter what.” Throwing the bag down among the leaves, I took a swig from the bottle. It’s lukewarm contents burned a trail past my blackened heart, down into the belly of my grief. I poured the rest in a circle around the tree, a libation to his spirit, no longer thirsty to quench his disease.
Throwing the empty bottle down too, I dug my hands into his ashes, casting them around me in a cloud. They coated my hand as stubbornly as his presence stays with me, gritty in the crevices and life lines on my palm, a reminder that our life together didn’t always run smooth.
Weeping now with full abandon, I leaned against the swaying trunk. It seemed almost to breathe, raising my head and letting it fall again as if I lay upon his living chest. Of course, he would be here, among the trees which gave him solace. This tree, his tree, creaks under the weight of my sorrow, but holds me firm as the hand of God. The creek behind me trickles steadily, spilling over obstacles in its path, reshaping the landscape as it goes, much as I am reshaping after his death.
I am communing here, with vodka and ashes, the very body of my beloved slipping through my fingers. He lives somewhere still, away from me, sometimes far and sometimes so close I can feel his warmth. His light shines as bright as a candle lit in sanctuary: in the determination toward healing of his eldest, in the laughter of his middle daughter, in the insistent kisses of the toddler, in the exuberant feeling of his son.
Though I may not always be convinced, I am not alone, for he is with me. His God and mine love us completely, and inexplicably allow us to love each other beyond death. I can feel it when I pause. Even in the cold of this November first, I am surrounded by a Wind from God, moving over the face of my deep, ready to re-create.