Keep A Fire Burning


Yesterday was the day. The earth has traveled 584 million miles around the sun since Shel left the planet, a full year of a Shel-less world. I still don’t understand how one day a person is here, full of love and passions and fun and sorrows and history, and the next day it’s all only a memory, so long as someone remembers, but I have been forced to recognize that it happens, and will happen to us all.

It seems impossible, a year already. I’d been dreading the day for a couple of weeks, thinking that it would shatter my new-found peace. But in the event, it was not at all what I expected. On Sunday, the one year anniversary of Shel’s last day on earth, I remembered what a good day that last day had been. Tom and Nancy, who were here with us on that day, called me Sunday morning and we reminisced about how happy we had all been to be together, not one of us having the slightest premonition that we were living Shel’s last hours. So the day before the anniversary itself was unexpectedly sweet.

I wondered whether I should set an alarm to wake up at the moment Shel died, about 5:00 in the morning, to re-live and release those terrible moments, but then Eric and Jessica and their friend Brian and I stayed up very late and drank far too much, and so I slept blissfully past the hour that had been so terrifying just a year ago. I thought I would awaken to find myself overwhelmed by loss, but no.


Instead I thought, all day long, about how much has changed in just one year. Nearly everything. I would never have imagined that in one short year I’d be able to regain my equilibrium, be eager to make plans, to create a new life for myself. Yes, it’s true, that tight-knit circle the two of us formed has begun to melt away, ever so slightly, and I’m finding myself again, at the center. And I’ve found my own center again, in the process. Throughout the last few years, and most especially the last year of Shel’s life, I was always off-balance, so afraid that he’d die any minute, that he’d be suffering and I wouldn’t be able to help, that I’d be left alone and fall into the abyss. And then, he did suffer, he did die, I couldn’t do anything to stop it although I know I eased his passing, I was left alone, and I didn’t fall, at least not into the abyss. I fell out of a kayak, I fell on my face taking out the recycling, but that was the worst of it. The abyss did not beckon as I’d thought it might.

Yes I stumbled, yes I wandered blindly, yes I sat alone through hundreds, no thousands, of hours of trying to find my way. And yes I drank too much, smoked too much pot, slept too little, didn’t brush my teeth every single night before bed, and some days ate hot dogs for breakfast and almond butter from a spoon for dinner, and slept too often in the recliner just to have the warm and comforting weight of Toby sleeping in my lap. I’m human, and I forgive myself for all of that. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, making it through this year, but really, amazing as it seems, I think I’m mostly alright now.


I’ve learned that the strong heart prevails, and I’ll always have him in mine, even if he’s no longer in my life. Our twenty years together were the best part of my life so far, and I’m not saying that I know that the next chapter can be even better, because I’m getting older every day, and that has its own perils. But I do have a plan, a really good plan, for what comes next, and I’m thrilled about it. Is it better to love, lose, be alone, and come up with a great plan, or to be with the one you love and live in daily fear of losing him? Think about it. I sure have.

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10 Comments on “Keep A Fire Burning”

  1. Lucy Says:

    Abra, yesterday I was scrolling through some messages on my phone and ran across our last exchange. I hoped you were doing alright. I am so glad you are finding balance and looking forward to your plans. Sending a big hug your way. L

  2. Janis Cohen Says:

    Abra, you sound healthy and optimistic, reflecting all of your thoughtful work — so good to hear.

  3. Ujwala Says:

    Uplifting to hear your optimism. Thanks for sharing your journey, xoxo

  4. Mark Says:

    My dear Abra, I am so pleased that a realization of peace has come to you. I have seen it growing in your writings and even your photography over the past year, maybe even longer ago than you realize. Today, you have so beautifully articulated that which I have always been challenged to explain about my own experience. This post easily could have been written almost word for word about me at what seems like a lifetime ago. When such a severe change happens in our life, folks can’t tell us that time heals wounds or that things get a little better with time. We don’t want to hear it. We become so distracted by the gaping hole that has been blasted through everything we know. But as you know now, there is some truth in those adages that annoyed us so much at first, and we learn to fill that empty space with special memories and experiences that are meaningful in new and perhaps exciting ways. I’m proud of your progress and happy that you are seeing life in a new and renewed light. I send you much love from too far away to give you a big, happy hug!

  5. Silvia Carry Says:

    You have every right to be proud of your accomplishment. Love you!

  6. Semra Says:

    Abra, thinking of you from lovely Tuscany. My mother & I also doing our own reckoning with the past. Will send you a proper email once I return to Addis. Love Semra

  7. Sue Geisler Says:

    I’m so looking forward to hearing about your activities and plans for the future.

  8. Jerry Says:

    Such beautiful photographs of the burning candle, and a touching story of your feelings.

  9. Dinah (Floyd) Toro Says:

    I knew Shel in the late sixties in Atlanta. I have, from time to time, checked his page just to see what he was up to. What a blow to my heart when I logged on today. I kept meaning to catch up with him. Our group of friends had wonderful times–mostly staying up ’til dawn sometimes singing. Shel had a big Gibson Hummingbird guitar. I remember particularly that Shel and I always harmonized on “Darcy Farrow”. The Fiddlers Convention in Union Grove, NC; Music festival at Unicoi State Park in N. Georgia–Shel was always there. Everyone loved him. Parties at the Juniper St house, the Monroe Dr house, Larry Crismond’s house. All the people: Danny Smith, Pat Alger, Laura and Andy Boots, Max Ivey, Frank Wing, Carolyn Powers, Bob Ford, Judy Godfrey,Tom Porter, Florence Warner, and from time to time beautiful Brooksie Hunnicutt, Tam Duffell.
    I wanted to reminisce with him.
    I am so saddened by his death and I wish you peace.
    May light Eternal shine upon him. Requiescat in Pace, dear Shel.

  10. Rebecca Says:

    You deserve to live in hope and with a present joy. Existence is a gift.

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