My wife and I met on a Tuesday night in a Dairy Queen parking lot in Texas. We spent perhaps 15 minutes talking to each other. We exchanged phone numbers. Because we were both dirt poor and long distance at the time was expensive, we spent about 20 minutes on the phone with each other before I brought a VHS movie to her house the following Thursday night to watch with her three children. We barely spoke because I only had a few hours before I had to go to work. We didn't kiss, but she did sit next to me with my arm around her and holding hands. I don't remember practically anything about the movie. All I could think about was her head on my shoulder and the touch of her hand.
Between that and the following Saturday evening, we spent about 10 minutes talking on the phone to set up our next "date," which would consist of me stopping by her house on the way back from visiting family in Austin. I got there at about 7:30 in the evening and her kids were all gone for the night at friends and family.
What was supposed to be a few hours turned into all night, as we talked and played word games like Boggle and Upwords. At about 5:30 Sunday morning we had our first kiss and started "making out." We did not have sex, we just "made out."
Three or four hours later, I left. We were completely in love and had said so to each other.
We were not teenagers experiencing a first crush. We were in our thirties and both had two prior marriages. We had both sworn off marriage. At the time she had three boyfriends, two of which she thought she was in love with.
When I left, she broke it off with them. She wanted to marry me. I felt the same. What we felt for each other was (and is) completely different than anything else we had ever felt. During those 12-14 hours, it was like the world stopped for us. We had found our home in each other and knew it on a deeper level than either of us even knew existed.
The sensation of that love was immediately everything to us.
That love only grew during the course of our 27 years together before her death, overcoming all issues, challenges and problems - and some of them were major, things that would ruin or end other relationships. We only became stronger and fell more in love.
I say all of that just to get to the following.
Irene left this world through the doorway we call death. I couldn't shut that door. It was a gaping hole that could not be patched or covered. At first I thought only pitch black, pain and despair was on the other side, flooding into my world, but little by little I realized that the darkness and the pain was caused by something else. What was pouring through that breach was something else entirely.
What was coming through that doorway was so blinding and so powerful that I had recoiled and shut my eyes. It was the pure, unfiltered experience of our love, our feelings for each other, the full measure of what we mean to each other. When she died, all of that was utterly revealed to me. It was too much to bear. I shut my eyes and backed away, transforming that light and warmth into the darkness and agonizing, painful cold of grief.
I forced my eyes open and approached the doorway, bit by bit. The more my eyes, mind and body acclimated to it, the more I could understand it, the more I realized what was pouring into my world from what was beyond. It was her, it was her love for me, our love, so overwhelming in so many ways.
Now, I am bathed in her love, sitting just on this side as she sits just on that side, reaching out to each other, seeing, feeling and experiencing each other far beyond anything we could with both of us on this side. We can be with each other in ways we couldn't even imagine before. The experience is physical, mental, emotional, psychological and spiritual. I can still, on this side, only endure some of it before it feels like I'm being totally consumed by some glorious fire.
This is so much like our first night together, when we sat cross-legged on the floor facing each other, the game we were playing between us as we talked. We were learning about each other's world, how to communicate with each other, building our bond, our intimacy, our trust. It was new to us then, like nothing we had experienced before. We didn't know if it was real because it seemed like a fantasy. It didn't feel real, like it could possibly be what it seemed to be. What we didn't know is that it didn't seem real because we had only before known the unreal and thought that real. When we made the decision to trust it, it was like entering reality for the first time. Nothing else felt real after that.
That first night together, as wonderful and as amazing as it was, and what we felt for each other as it grew in our lives here, was only the barest taste of what we have now; what we experience now, I know, is just a taste of what is to come.