Sunday, February 18, 2024

The Day After - A World and a Lifetime Ago

Yesterday morning, very early, I had this odd sensation. I remember lying in bed, as I have done for the past month, recovering from full-knee replacement surgery. I hadn’t been sleeping well for that month, so I just figured it was part of the process, wailing and flailing and general discomfort.

And then I heard an ancient song, by the Shangri-las, whispering lyrics to their hit song, “Remember”:

(Remember) walking in the sand

(Remember) walking hand-in-hand

(Remember) the night was so exciting

(Remember) smile was so inviting

(Remember) then she touched my cheek

(Remember) with her fingertips

Softly, softly we'd meet with our lips

And then, I remembered.

The same day, a Saturday, 23 years ago to the day, February 17, 2001, I got a call from the care center where my wife Lizanne was. It was 5:30 AM. “Mr. Cevola, you need to come. Your wife doesn’t have much more time.”

So, I got up, fed the cat, got dressed and headed out to say good-bye to my dear wife.

I got there in time for us to watch the sun rise, her last sunrise, before she slipped away. I was saddened, but relieved her suffering would be over. She had just turned 48 on the 14th. She was determined to make it to her birthday. She would never see 50, or 60, or 70. Multiple Sclerosis saw to that.

23 years later, how does it go? It goes. Life goes on, with or without us. But as I’ve witnessed in our age of social media, when friends of mine lose their mates too early or untimely, they let us know just how painful it is in the beginning. The truth is, it still is. It’s just that one lives to learn to endure the pain, to live with it. What else can you do?

The day of Liz’s passing, her best friend told me to come over and stay with them that night, to not be alone. I went home, got some things, fed the cat again, and headed over. We had a meal, some wine, and I went to bed in their guest room, which when Liz was her roommate, was once Liz’s room. As I was slipping into sleep, I felt Liz gently graze my arm with her touch, as she moved on into the greater cosmos. She was unbound, everything would be ok for her.

For those of us still tethered to our bodies and this earth, it would be a different story. Many years, many tears, a lot of pain. Rinse and repeat.

But I would find a way to stay the course. If only to honor the struggle she gave, by living the best life I could, for me and for her memory.

I’m not sure I excelled in that part. But I tried.

What I found out, along the way, was that things like work and career are highly over-rated. Sure, I raced up and down the wine trail in Italy for years until the race ended. And I took it so very seriously.

I laugh now, because it seems a bit delusional to think any one of us can make that big of a difference in anything, let alone making the world safe for Italian wine. Ha! Anyway, that was my lesson. I don’t expect anyone else to read this and take this as a cautionary tale. We all have our destinies lined up for us.

But love and family and peace and health and yes, happiness, are the Golden Fleece of this life for me. And for anyone listening, take heed. Your child is a million times more important than a placement, a blog post, an unforgettable meal or a once-in-a-lifetime 20-30-40-year vertical tasting of some fabulous wine property in Italy or France. Those pursuits are as dull as dishwater compared to the essential stuff of life.

One last note: I’ve kept a dream log every time I had a dream about Liz. I know her essence is still in my heart as well as running around the universe. Maybe one day, when I am no longer corporeal, our essences will dance together again, drink the wine of the cosmos, and everything will be as one, as the physicists tell us it is. Until then, I am here, 23 years to the day after, still loving, and still remembering our hand-in-hand walk, in the sands of time.


© written and photographed by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
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