That Look

I was 28 when I finally decided to end a 4-year relationship with the man that I had formerly been deeply in love with.  We had grown apart over time, through different interests and goals, and I finally realized that we were better off pursuing our own interests and relationships.

It was a really hard decision, for both of us, but afterwards I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders.  I had felt this sensation of a lifting weight before, when I’ve made decisions my heart knew deep down were the right ones – it’s just that my brain sometimes takes a little more convincing.  I celebrated my 30th birthday fairly recently and realized that for me, this decade is going to be about learning to trust my heart – being confident in knowing that my heart will always tell me the truth, if my brain is willing to listen.

After making the decision to part ways, I needed to find somewhere to live.  After an exhaustive 3-day apartment hunt, I found a quaint little apartment in downtown Fredericton.  It was in the back of a house, in a neighbourhood with lots of trees – it had a little yard, and was walking distance to work.  It was cute, but it was my first time living by myself and I was a little nervous about it.

The day I moved in some of my fears of living alone were assuaged because I was greeted by two smiling people – my neighbours living in the front part of the house – David & Linda.   They were absolutely charming and welcoming.  David was a quiet, introverted person who loved to paint and have quiet, deep chats and chuckle at my stories.  Linda was a full of life, always laughing and welcoming.  I quickly found myself ‘neighborhood parents’, as they affectionately called themselves.  And I was happy to have them.

I really admired their deep love and respect for one another.  They each got that ‘look’ in their eyes when they spoke about each other.  I always love hearing people’s stories about how they met, and so I asked them for their story.  David and Linda had met later in their lives – in their 50s.  They were introduced to one another through a mutual friend, and after having a chaotic first date dinner involving Murphy’s Law, ended up chatting and laughing late into the night.  They fell in love, and got married.

Whenever they were outside on their porch, I would stop in for a chat – we would chat about my work, my dating experiences, about their work, David’s paintings, and the neighbourhood.  They were living in the main part of the house that I was renting because their own house across the street had been vandalized by fire a few months earlier and were now going through lengthy court proceedings.  In the meantime, their historic home was being renovated, and I loved hearing about their plans for the house in which they had built their new life together.  The open house they hosted when it was finished was joyous, and an occasion that brought the neighbourhood together – they’re the kind of people who are the cornerstone of their neighborhood and community.

This past winter, I received a message from a mutual friend that Linda had passed away unexpectedly.  I was heartbroken not only because the world had lost a vibrant and beautiful person, but also because I knew how deeply David would miss her.  I remembered that look he got in his eye whenever he talked about Linda.  I attended the memorial service later that week, and am so thankful to have been able to participate in celebrating and remembering such a remarkable person.  Difficult times like those remind me of one of my favourite quotes from psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Dr. Viktor Frankl: ‘there is no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bear witness that a man has the greatest of courage – the courage to suffer’.

David’s love for Linda was, and still is so apparent – she left an everlasting impression on his life.  Their love has left an everlasting impression on my life too, and reminds me that you know never know how people will touch your life.  It reminds me to be open to letting people in – you never know what beautiful trace they will leave.

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