RHETA GRIMSLEY JOHNSON: Passion of life beats strong a year after the world stopped

By Rheta Grimsley Johnson

A year ago today, the world turned upside down and inside out and screeched to a stop. For a long moment, there were no sounds or heartbeats, no movements or meaning, no joy anywhere.
But being a stubborn, relentless and hope-fueled world, it sputtered and coughed, then cranked itself back up again. Life somehow stumbled on with its casseroles and obligations, and without my sweet husband Don.
I’ve tried today to think of things that have happened in the last long year that would have surprised him. There weren’t many. He’d been around.
I think the biggest shock would have been the victory of the New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl. A Saints fan forever, he sure wouldn’t have seen that coming.
Maybe the passage of a health-care bill would have surprised and pleased him a little. Most probably he would have shrugged and said it was a start, nowhere near the change that’s needed, and wondered what’s in it for the pharmaceutical industry. For certain he would have expected the negative unanimity of the Republicans.
Most that happened from one cold March to another he’d seen before, the good and the bad, the routine and the spectacular. He’d seen his share of gutless politicians, greedy developers, hungry children, natural disasters, extreme weather.
There were other things, smaller things, he would have enjoyed, and I wish he could have seen. The wet autumn that created a small and raucous waterfall in the little branch right outside our door. Sam Whigham playing his Dobro at the Bastille Day party, mastering the soulful instrument the way Don never did. The Paris parts of the movie “Julie and Julia.” Benjamin’s carefully printed thank-you letter for a book about frogs.
I wish he could have been here for the early-morning February snowfall, when rare flakes big as saucers floated outside the window and settled like embroidered dresser scarves on the nandinas. And for the day the house in the hayfield was painted Monopoly red. I wish he could have sat by the creek and listened to the Louvin Brothers tribute album one more time.
He would have been pleased to host our French friend Marie-Lu when she visited the Mississippi hollow back in the summer. He liked women who could talk about philosophy, about ideas, about something other than town gossip.
I wish he could see the vintage travel trailer with aqua appointments I bought in a fever and off eBay late one night. He’d roll his eyes and laugh about that, no doubt.
Most of all, I wish he could see that I’m smiling again, even laughing lots, going on with my life with a fervor and passion and intensity that only a great loss can make you capable of feeling.
When someone teaches you how short life is, you tend to quit wasting it. Not only is this not a dress rehearsal, it’s a very short play.
He wouldn’t be surprised that I have learned that hard lesson well.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson is a syndicated columnist. She lives in the Iuka vicinity. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852.