miracles that dwell in the invisible

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Last night I dreamed of Carl. We were at the airport waiting for the boarding of our flight to be called. There were a lot of people buzzing and bumbling around us, a particularly busy terminal. And at one point, Carl and I sat down together, looking at each other with radiant smiles out the corners of our eyes as we reached for each other’s hand. We felt bright and excited to be going somewhere new together, silly with the sensation of love, anticipation and fun. We were on our way to Florida–for my birthday.

It has been a morning of tears. Because, you see…
This was really supposed to happen.

We had been tossing ideas around for a few months. Carl’s birthday was exactly one month before his funeral. It was our first birthday “together.” Things got busy out west and we weren’t able to celebrate his birthday side by side. I was so bummed about that, but we made the best of it. Carl sent me a video of him playing music on his porch. He went for a nice hike. He called me a dozen times. Throughout the day, we took turns keeping each other from feeling sad about the miles between us. He told me we’d make up for it on MY birthday. Over the course of the next few weeks, he musta said to me more than a dozen times: “There’s a lot of things I don’t know, but one thing I know for sure is that I WILL be with you on your birthday.”

You see, Carl didn’t make commitments he couldn’t keep. Ever. If there was one thing that drove me crazy, it was his inability to commit to a plan. I always thought I was the spontaneous one in the crowd. Ha! Carl had me beat by a million miles. It was also, in some wild way, something I loved about him. He could go with the flow like nobody’s business.

For a long time, I’ve been feeling like my 40th birthday would be a hard one. I don’t have a problem with my age or even aging for that matter. I never have. But this year needed to be special. It would be the thing that would carry me forward with a sense of hope and inspiration to make this life what I want it to be. Carl and babies, my art and adventure and building a life together were a part of that dream. It was the totality of the dream, really. We had big, BIG dreams together and, the thing is, we were the type of people that would actually make them come true.

Last night, I got a text from Carl’s brother, Andrew, saying that it had been a particularly hard day for him. It was for me, too. He said that he had told his wife, Tiara, that there are so many days in the past year that he’s wished he could will his heart to stop, but can’t. He said that there’s some purpose for us here and that sometimes he feels like the only thing pulling him forward is this curiosity to see where it goes. He couldn’t have said it more perfectly.

There is this impulse to curl up in a ball under a mountain of Carl’s blankets and never move again. And, yes, each afternoon I have been laying down with Carl’s favorite raggedy old quilt. In these moments, Henry (Carl’s dog), snuggles in next to me especially tight, the weight and smell of Carl’s blanket instantly causing him to relax and sleep. I breathe it in, deeply. My other two dogs curl themselves around my legs and, often, it is during this time that I feel Carl close to me, talking to me, telling me things I need to hear. Telling me that I can do this, that he loves me, that he’s with me. He tells me things that I can’t even remember. And, eventually, something causes me to get up. Maybe it’s Carl, pulling me by my hands out of bed. It is not a place to stay. There is still life to be lived, even if that feels mostly impossible right now.

In the dream, just as we were about to board the flight, I realized that Carl was nowhere to be found. He was most likely meandering, curiously taking in the world and talking on his phone. I was starting to panic. All the moms in my life showed up and began looking for him, having him paged on the airport’s intercom system, spelling out his name, touching the arms of strangers. Everyone was looking for him and, meanwhile, in my mind’s eye I could see him, happy as a lark, drifting in the wrong direction–away from me. He wandered slowly by the airport bookstore, touching the covers as he talked on the phone. He was smiling and enjoying himself. Meanwhile, the pilot was trying to get me to try on different shoes. Some of them were Carl’s shoes and, somehow, Carl was tricking them onto my feet without even being there.

For a long time, I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do for my birthday. I kept asking Carl, “What do YOU think we should do??” Every time he responded by telling me that we should do whatever it was I wanted to do. He would take me anywhere in the world. It would be his gift to me. We were going to make it fit into my impossibly busy pre-exhibition schedule and so I decided we shouldn’t waste too much time on flights and getting over jet-lag. We considered Puerto Rico, the southwest and a million places in between. We’d save a motorcycle trip across Australia or Chile for March, when my show would be complete and Carl would have more time, too. Then my dear friend, Kristine, found out that a gallery would be representing her artwork at Art Basel in Miami Beach, FL. It is a dream come true for her, and (as artists) for both of us, really. Art Basel is a crème de la crème of success in the world of Fine Art. Carl and I decided we would go there–to celebrate Kristine’s success, and also sneak away to celebrate my birthday and each other. On Friday morning, Carl told me he was going to purchase the plane tickets the following Monday.

Monday never happened. On Monday I was helping put a cross by the side of the road where Carl was killed.

So many dreams–vanished–in a puff of cold air. I am lost; I am sometimes floundering; I’m not sure how to proceed. I have enough tears inside of me to fill an eighth ocean.

I took this photo while sitting by Carl’s side on the shore of Lake Superior this past summer. It was one of the happiest moments in my life. I must have told him I loved him a million times that day. We were talking about babies and adventures and all the goodness that we couldn’t wait to step into together. It was ridiculous how good I felt, Carl holding my hand that whole entire day.

I know that miracles dwell in the invisible. The prayer is that I will make myself available to them.

My life continues. I love you, Carl.

{originally published Nov. 22, 2014}

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