I’M SO GLAD I LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE THERE ARE OCTOBERS. (ANNE OF GREEN GABLES BY L. M. MONTGOMERY )
Me too, Anne. I love Octobers. And this one is very special. October 2020 arrived with bonanza of lunar events: a Harvest Moon (full moon closest to the Autumnal Equinox), a Hunter’s Moon (follows the Harvest Moon) and a Blue Moon, happening on the 31st, Halloween. In case you missed it, our first full moon already occurred. And Don and I were able to share it with a friend.
It was the first evening of October. We enjoyed a delightful evening with Lily, our new neighbor.
After a light supper and still distancing, we walked her home. Even though it was a short walk, we didn’t get far before we stopped in our tracks. And there it was, fresh and clean, looking like a prop in a movie set, the kind of moon George Bailey would lasso for his Mary. We stopped to drink in its delicious glow, the perfect aperitif to a lovely evening. We swallowed it up.
The Mistress of the Night
Henry David Thoreau dubbed her as the mistress of the night. The full moon has so much to say about ourselves. Her mirror of pearls reminds us who we are without the tight knots. We drop all pretenses. Rambling noises grinding through our brain-gears ceases to exist. The years fade away. Bathed in buoyant reverie, we return to our bloom, where love floats up from places we thought were lost or dried up. On these special nights, when we are lucky enough to be held in her wondrous spell, our mistress of the night dazzles while she silently waves her wand over the tidal ebbs. Our hearts fill with oceans of love. We are moonstruck.
Moonstruck: Che Bella Luna!
“In that light, with that expression on your face, you look about 25 years younger.” (Loretta’s Aunt Rita to her husband Raymond from the movie, Moonstruck)
Allow me to wax romantic. We all have a love story or two in our hearts. Make a little space for Judy and Jim. This is their story.
To Dance in the Moonlight, One Last Time
To some, much is given; to others, much is asked. Jim would place himself as the former, to whom much has been given. But it is also true that life has asked much of Jim. In the 1960s at age 22, Jim was exposed to Agent Orange while serving his country in Viet Nam. There were early signs of physical distress and twenty years later, as his symptoms progressed, the diagnosis came: Parkinson’s. Then began the steady decline.
Jim was an outdoorsman. He loved biking, cross country skiing, and softball. But Parkinson’s is a thief that steals a life one day, one cell at a time. He made a valiant effort to remain active, but the thief was relentless. Two brain surgeries did help to reduce the tremors, but eventually the time came when his tired body succumbed. He could no longer stand up on his own. It takes courage to face a progressive deteriorating disease. Jim continually remained upbeat, finding new ways to challenge his weakening body. The years ticked on. During the last 18 months of his life, confined to a wheelchair in assisted living, he attended Rock Steady Boxing, a fitness program designed for people with Parkinson’s. Not given to complaints, Jim continued to be grateful for the support and love from his family and loving wife.
To him, much was given. He had Judy.
They met in college. While leaving a class on a bright sunny autumn day, Judy noticed him laughing and joking with a group of friends. Inwardly she mused, “How can I meet someone like him?” She felt drawn to his easy laughter, his positive sway with friends. For several days, she would look for him after class, but always from a distance. Her shyness kept her from approaching him. But fate brought them together at a college mixer. One date led to another and another. They fell in love and married right after Jim returned from Viet Nam. Jim knew how lucky he was to have found his soulmate. They celebrated their life together. For the next 49 years, Jim gave Judy a single rose on Valentine’s Day.
May I Have This Dance?
It was Valentine’s Day in their 49th year of marriage. It was a beautiful evening. The assisted care facility where Jim was now a resident organized a Valentine’s Dance. Tables were decorated with red hearts and white lace. A wall of floor to ceiling windows brought the outside world into view. A tired sun was sinking, leaving behind flattened layers of pinks and purples, pancaked beneath a few wispy clouds, the remnants of the day. And toward the east a full moon was beginning its ordained path across the starry heavens, sweeping across a dreamy heart or two.
Looking very smart in her new red outfit, Judy arrived early to spend a few quiet moments with Jim before the others arrived. And waiting for her was her Jim with a single rose. They kissed and talked softly, held in the magic of moonlight and soft music.
As the room filled with other couples and family, Judy went to get some refreshments for the two of them. While she was gone, Jim had a melancholy look about him. It caught the attention of Janis, a frequent volunteer who often attended events at the residence. She knew this was rare for Jim who was such an upbeat guy. Some couples were on the dance floor, gliding to timeless love songs. Sensing Jim’s pensive mood and feeling something was awry, Janis sat down with him and asked him if he needed some assistance.
He looked wistfully away, in the direction of the east window and simply said, “It’s Valentine’s Day. I would just love to dance with my wife.” Janis looked about the room seeing the couples dancing. She looked up at the full moon now higher in the night sky and a wave of thought began to ripple through her. Tilting her head to one side, she smiled, turned to Jim and said, “Maybe you can.”
The Dance Sandwich
By the time Judy returned to the table with a tray of goodies, Janis and Jim were beaming almost as brightly as the moon. She walked over to Jim with questioning eyes. That is when Janis walked over and stood in front of Jim, guiding him off his wheelchair to a standing position. Then she maneuvered around holding him up from behind giving Jim the opportunity to ask his wife a question. He smiled a broad smile that freed him from his fragile body long enough to ask,
“May I have this dance?”
Call it kismet, but at that moment, an introduction to a familiar song began to play. Anne Murray was soon singing :
“Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?”
They created a dance sandwich: Jim in the middle, holding onto Judy and Janis holding Jim from behind. One might wonder if that night, the moon’s gravitational pull followed a different set of rules. It was not a force weighing them down but a tender pulling together. The mistress of the night does that. It draws us together. Our individual orbital paths intersect in one time and place where together we step to the rhythms of life. Janis was there at the right time. The love in her heart made this scene possible. The dance trio, as they were dubbed, soon had an audience of conjoined voices singing the lyrics:
“when we’re together it feels so right”.
I recall another trio whose lives were forever blessed because their paths crossed. My two best friends, Carol and Sandy and I were reminiscing our high school years—all the boyfriend dramas, the break-ups, the heartaches—you know, all the high and lows of teen angst. And then we saw it as clearly as day. The true love story was our own, the three lives that intersect still to this day. When we’re together it feels so right.
I would surmise that when Jim laid his head on his pillow that Valentine’s night of their 49th year, so thankful to have had the opportunity to hold his Judy in his arms once more, that a smile moved into every cell in his body. It was a night of which dreams are made. To him, much had been given.
October paints us a canvas of life cycles. American Naturalist John Burroughs wrote “How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.
Jim and Judy did not make it to their 50th wedding anniversary. I know, you do not want a sad ending here. But endings and beginnings have no space between them. They are the same. Jim began his new beginning. He will welcome his love in her new beginning, in the fullness of time.