(Revisited from an earlier post, October’s Blue Moon, 2020)
The Mistress of the Night
Henry David Thoreau dubbed her the mistress of the night. The full moon is a pearly mirror reflecting who we are without the tight knots, without pretenses. The years fade away. Brain-gears grind down. 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 tides. Our hearts fill with oceans of love. We are moonstruck as was Jim on this special night.
To some, much is given; to others, much is asked. Jim would place himself as the former; he felt he was blessed by life. 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 cell, one day at a time. He made a valiant effort to remain active, but the thief was relentless. Two brain surgeries did offer some relief from the tremors, but eventually the time came when his tired body succumbed, and he could no longer stand up on his own.
It takes courage to face a progressive deteriorating disease, yet Jim remained upbeat, finding new ways to challenge his weakening body. The years ticked on. The last 18 months of his life confined him to a wheelchair in assisted living. There 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.
Jim, Judy, and a Rose
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. Shyness kept her from approaching him.
But fate would bring them together at a college mixer. One date led to another and another. They fell in love and married. Then Jim was shipped off to Viet Nam, knowing how lucky he was to have his soulmate waiting for him. When he returned, their life together began. For the next 49 years, Jim celebrated this life with a single rose for his love 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 dance. Tables were decorated with red hearts and white lace. A wall of floor-to-ceiling windows brought the outside world into view. The tired sun was sinking, leaving behind flattened layers of pinks and purples, pancaked beneath a few wispy clouds, the remnants of the day. And eastward, 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. Waiting for her was a single rose. There, held in the magic of moonlight and soft music, they kissed.
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. Catching a sliver of moonlight, 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 standing in front of Jim, guided 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. Feeling as tall as the sky, with a smile that freed him from his fragile body long enough to ask,
“May I have this dance?”
Call it kismet, but at that moment, the first few bars of a familiar song began to play. It was Anne Murray’s song,
“Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?”
They created a dance sandwich: Jim in the middle, holding his Judy and Janis supported them behind Jim.
On that night, the moon seemed to be governed by a different set of rules. It was not a gravitational force weighing down but a tender energy pulling them together. The mistress of the night does that. It draws us together. Love made this scene possible. The dance trio, as they were dubbed, soon captured the attention of everyone there. A collection of voices sang out,
“. . . when we’re together it feels so right”.
It was a night of which dreams are made. To Jim, much had been given. I would surmise that when Jim laid his head on his pillow that night of their 49th year, pieces of moonbeams warmed his heart.
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 passed into his new beginning. He will welcome his love in her new beginning, in the fullness of time.
Love is our true destiny. We do not find it in ourselves. We find it in each other. ― Thomas Merton
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest is love. . . -----1 Corinthians 13:13