Here's the thing, when you lose someone you love, you heal over time, but you are never truly whole again. Everyone heals differently, but I would imagine I am not alone in having those little moments that bring that loved one back to you. Sometimes, they are light, and you smile at the memory and move on with your day. Sometimes, they catch your breath and a lump forms in your throat, but you keep your tears at bay. Sometimes, they rock you to your core and the loss you felt feels fresh and new for some inexplicable reason.
All was well until one moment in the musical. Belle and the Beast were sitting down, and the table that had been center stage at one point in the play had been moved to downstage left. In that moment, that one staging choice swept me back over twenty years. Because this was a high school production, it is even possible it was the same table, stuck back in the prop room and used in countless productions over the past two decades, but it didn't matter if it was the same table or not. Only the staging mattered.
Anthony, my high school sweetheart and father of my first son, sat at a table on the very same stage in a play called Let it Rain. I worked as a student director on that production. Anthony played the son of a psychiatrist who was trying to convince God not to flood the Earth a second time. The psychiatrist had a wife, a son, and a daughter, and during one scene, they sat in that very spot on that very stage. I couldn't focus on anything else--as if a single spotlight had been trained only on the table and all else in the theater had gone silent, leaving me alone with an empty table and the ghosts of what had once been.
I didn't cry, although I wanted to. I didn't run out of the theater, although I wanted to. Part of me wanted them to move on to the next set change so the table would move to somewhere else. Part of me wanted them to leave the table there, no matter how ridiculous, so I could hold on to the feeling. The feeling that Anthony had just been there. It wasn't twenty plus years ago. It was a production not that long ago, and if I hurried backstage, I might just catch up with him. (I didn't actually think this, but it is the closest I can get to putting this feeling into words.) None of that is real. It is an emotion that sneaks up on you and overtakes you. You want to push it away so you can seem normal and whole, but you also want to embrace it so you can feel just a little bit longer like the one you love is still close by.
It is difficult for me to explain this to people because there is no term for it. I am not a widow because we were high school seniors when Anthony died in a plane crash leaving me six months pregnant and alone. I've used the term soulmates, and I feel this way, but I also have a husband whom I love, and I wonder if it is possible to have more than one soulmate. I know our relationship was not perfect. We had our fights--Anthony called them debates. I even told my best friend I would break up with him if he was getting in the way of our friendship. But he,too, was my best friend. Maybe that makes my argument for multiple soulmates.
In the end, it comes down to one word. Love. Once you love someone, a part of you is with them forever. When the one you love is gone, you tend to romanticize the past. It's human nature. I would pray you never experience a loss like I did, but we all experience loss. There are only two alternatives which could protect you--you are the one lost or you never love. I don't wish that on you either; although, when the moment hits, you may feel like either of those options would have been kinder.
Instead, I share this. Know that others share the feelings you may have--but they are yours and yours alone. The loss your heart holds on to is both a burden and a blessing. It may bring you to your knees from time to time, but it shows you loved, and it is a living memorial to the one you loved. So, bring on the random staging in life that will carry an echo of the past into your present and the ghost of a lost love brushing past your soul. Revel in it for a moment to remember the feel of that love. Then let the next set change take place, and remember to give the loves you have around you a squeeze.