The Loss of Will

Everyone has seen the picture of men and women kissing through the glass of a prison visiting room. Hands pressed to hands, lips to lips and hearts that did not recognize the man-made barrier of ugly plexiglass. There is the telephone smelling of tobacco breath and the thin metal shelf to rest elbows upon while you talk. Locked in a cage of a non-petting man-zoo.

That was the last memory I have of her alive. This woman, whose beauty still took my breath away after more than 33 years of being together. Her eyes were so green and always had that special sparkle in them as though she knew something I did not and was anxious to tell me about it. Her hair, once so long and beautiful, was gone. So was the sparkle. Now, as cancer continued to ravage her mane, I was struck by another kind of beauty that could not be compared. It was the beauty of impending death and the leaving of a life once filled saveaced my face on the glass and looked deeply into her eyes. It was our moment, our last moment together and I did not want to break away. A noise of a drumming sound began as pings from a pencil beating on a surface. At first, slowly and then more steadily as it began to distract me from my reverie, and I felt angry that anyone could be so rude as to interfere. It took some time before I found out that this drumming sound was my own tears rolling off the chin and bouncing on the thin metal elbow table. Until that moment I was so focused on her eyes that I did not even realize I was crying.nd out that this drumming sound was my own tears rolling off the chin and bouncing on the thin metal elbow table. Until that moment I was so focused on her eyes that I did not even realize I was crying.

That was on a Friday. On Tuesday, she died at home with her cat Samantha sitting and purring beside her.

Everyone deals with loss in different ways. For me it was so damn devastating that I could not breathe, least of all think about putting food in my mouth. I had just lost my final appeal in the courts and figured there was no sound reason to go on. Suicide was the most attractive to me as it ever had been in my entire life. Not the kind of boo hoos, woe is me, sort of suicide, but rather one of reasoned out practical sense.

People left me alone in my darkened cell. I would sit for hours and then days in meditation. My thoughts as I tried to count my breaths were of her and all the happiness and joy we had known in our youth and then the years of prison visits filled with her laughter.

They took me to the funeral parlor at 6 in the morning and gave me "ten minutes to say your goodbyes." I went over to the bier and looked down at her laying there. I knelt and said a prayer asking God to welcome her into his loving arms. Suddenly as I bent over to kiss her I was struck by a revelation so profound that I began to almost leap with joy. That shell was NOT my wife. That shell was merely the vessel that carried her. She was gone and yet, she was not. She lived in me and I was warm and safe again. I could go on after all. I turned to leave and the guard told me I still had a few more minutes, but I told him it was okay, I was ready to leave.

I begin each morning in meditation practice, and I am so filled with love that I feel I will touch something no man has ever touched before. I will become part of that invisible grid of crackling e1ectricity we feel when we tingle for no good reason at all.

Since the Major left me, my life has been filled with blessings that I cannot seem to understand. I have the greatest friends who constantly shower me with their love and attention. I am humbled beyond description by this, and I understand that life has its purpose just as death has its own. Death is conquered by acceptance and resolution that we do not die . . . we become.

   Joe Labriola
   March 8, 2012