Monday evening Steve did not come home from his walk with Coco, our beautiful red Doberman. Maybe he went directly to the meditation at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, I thought. He had texted me, though, that he would pick me up. I tried to call and text him but there was no reply.
Because of my chemotherapy treatment, I get tired early, and went to bed. I awoke at 3am and he was not there, next to me. I looked out the window, and our car was not there. The parking bay was eerily empty. I tried to call him but his phone was off. Maybe he got in an accident, I thought and looked up the police report website. Nothing. Then came the knock on the door. Is Mrs Carter available, please?
In front of me I saw what must be one of most people’s worst nightmares – four serious looking police officers at 3.45am at your front door. Are you Mrs Carter?
We are so sorry to inform you, Mrs Carter, that your husband Steve was found shot dead on a nearby hiking trail. Your dog was also shot multiple times but is expected to make a full recovery. Your car has disappeared. We are so sorry, and we have some questions for you.
Perfectly formed sentences cannot adequately describe the past 72 or so hours. Here are some random words:
DISBELIEF SURREAL DEVASTATING SHATTERED RAGE HEARTBROKEN PAIN CATHARSIS HELL-FIRE DESPAIR GRIEF REVENGE SADNESS LOSS DARKNESS TRAGEDY TEARS WAILS EXHAUSTION SORROW LONELINESS PAIN PAIN PAIN PRESENCE ANGUISH QUESTIONS DEAD SORROW
On Wednesday morning, friends visited. They told me that they left some flowers at the place where Steve was killed. MELTDOWN. But I had to go, too.
We printed a photo and made a little shrine there on the path. I sat down on the earth, and entered into sacred space with Steve. In the background, my precious friend Om recited the Phowa ritual, as Steve’s disembodied presence and I meditated together on the light and his soul, his spirit, ascending his body.
After that, I felt a little better. And since then, many people have come to the shrine, to hold vigil, to honor Steve, to bring flowers.
Then the car was tracked, the suspects arrested, the weapon found. Turns out the same three suspects are now going to be charged for a murder that took place a few days earlier of a young Canadian woman in San Francisco, as well.
Two days ago I spent one hour alone with him – his body – in the morgue. Death really is but one breath away. The veil between life and death is just that thin. I kept looking at his face, waiting for him to open his eyes. His beautiful blue shining eyes. But no, they did not open. He was gone. The man we knew as Steve Carter was no longer in the body I saw in front of me. I did a heart salutation for him, honoring his body, knowing his spirit was already in the light.
The pain is excruciating, and the having to let go of him in the physical manifestation that has been part of my everyday life for the past 17 years is simply unbearable. I have literally become PAIN.
Life will go on, yes, and time heals all wounds, yes, but right now it is excruciating. The tsunamis of pain and sorrow pounding on me. The memories and reminders. The mental images of how he may have felt when he was attacked.
Why did I not go to the beach with him instead, like he had wanted? Why? Why? WHY? This puzzle will never be solved. Can you imagine the challenge this poses on me as a meditator, to stay in the here and now?
And among all this I am still dealing with the breast cancer and the treatment. Yeah, we could have almost forgotten that! I feel so tired, empty and heavy inside. Eating and swallowing is torturous for me. But I have to eat to fuel my body for chemo and for survival. One fork-full for Steve, one fork-full for Bebe, one fork-full for Coco…. that’s the basic level I am at right now.
My next chemo infusion is scheduled for this coming Thursday. It is the first of 12 weekly ones.
How will I get through this?
There is an incredibly outpouring of support from the community at large, and I am realizing just how much Steve and I are loved by thousands of people, how our life’s work grew so much bigger than we had known. My family and friends are my islands in the stormy seas, and the collective grief is simply staggering. Somehow, all this is helping me to stay present, to stay alive, to hold me up at this time when I simply just want to disappear, vanish. That’s how I will get through this.
One breath at a time.
My heart goes out especially to my families – my two step-children Em and Rob, and their partners; my two brothers in law and sister-in-law and their children; and my own family – my sister and her partner, my niece and nephew, and my dad. We are all in deep mourning and disbelief together.
For some more facts – Coco will be in the animal hospital for some time. I may be able to visit her soon. There will be a private cremation ceremony for our family and closest friends this coming week. Details about public memorial services will be announced soon.