Chanel No. 5. It is a perfume name that I know. I can’t recall what it smells likes, yet I was married to a woman who wore it.
I can recall the woman: her smile, her laugh, her facial expressions, and the way she looked at me.
I have a small bottle of Channel No. 5 that I have keep. In the early years of my widowhood, I would remove the top and bring the bottle just under my nose and inhale. Then a miracle happened. She was alive: the feel of her hand on my hand, the sound of her laughter, the sight of her sitting at the kitchen table, and the tangible love flowing between her and me.
Then as the fragrance fades, my real life returns: the longing for my wife, the comfort of the past, and the feeling of her love fade like a person walking down the beach.
I haven’t taken that bottle out for years, and I wonder where it is. It was important in the first years of my widowhood when I fought to remember her and the life we had because I didn’t want her death. I didn’t choose the new life that was to come because I didn’t know what that life would be like.
I could only image that new life being similar to who I had been before her. I had been a single man who had never known love. But now I was a single man, with children, who had known love. That feeling, that pleasure, that hope of love and loving drove me forward through the grief and pain to find that spot, that life, that feeling of love again.
Yet as the years passed, I grieved like a widower. I hurt as only a grieving person does. My life was shaped by the loss of my love and my wife. I feared, cowered, and put on a brave face as I lived the widow’s life. My wife, Lisa, may be gone, but what she let me see and feel will always be with me.
I only have this life and the seemingly rapidly shrinking years left to me. Grieving takes boldness. Stepping fully into a new life and embracing a new love takes boldness. A new love brings its fears, its new routine, and a new fragrance that I will embrace and breathe deeply into my lungs and into my brain knowing full well that I may grieve again, but that means that I have loved again.
Richard Ballo 2011