My wife died on Valentine's Day, and I never thought that the holiday would be the same again.
Khevin Barnes is a Male Breast Cancer survivor, magician and speaker. He is currently writing, composing and producing a comedy stage musical about Male Breast Cancer Awareness. He travels wherever he is invited to speak to (and do a little magic for) men and women about breast cancer. www.BreastCancerSpeaker.com www.MaleBreastCancerSurvivor.com
I suppose the word "spirit," as applied to living human beings, can be defined in many ways. But to me, it simply means one's zest for life. Our spirit expresses our relationship with life itself. It defines our belief that our very existence, despite the setbacks and difficulties that are always part of the mix, is an exceptional experience.
So, it's not easy to allow the death of a loved one from cancer or any other cause to enter into the world we hold dear, and to find a place for it to settle. It may seem simpler to block out the pain of loss, but I believe, based on my own experience, that pain which remains unexpressed remains in perpetuity.
I remember thinking soon after stage 4 ovarian cancer took her life, that Feb. 14 would forever be a day of sadness. I wondered how I could ever again relate to a world of red hearts and flowers and messages of love and devotion at such a scale.
Perhaps the most difficult part for me was seeing so much of my past life with my young wife wrapped up in my day-to-day struggle to create a new life. I began to wonder if a person could actually learn to appreciate the fact that they've been given two very different and very fulfilling life experiences. And why would we want to combine the two anyway?
Holding on is one way we attempt to lessen our pain. And it worked for me, but only for a while since attempting to block out the reality of my situation left me standing in a very empty and very lonely place.
We had no children and we lived in a lovely, but remote home on a small lake in rural Oregon. I had good and caring neighbors, but they had their own lives and issues to manage.
And I had nature. Our home sat on 100 feet of lakefront and the wildlife was astonishing. Otter and elk and deer and raccoons shared my yard with me. The endless miles of fir trees were lush and comforting, always standing in their protective pose around our little lake.
I made up my mind that I would live with nature, walk in the woods, sit by the fire and all would be well. Nature would be my comfort and purpose and my own personal Valentine.
But I soon realized that something was missing from my solo life: people. I needed human conversation and thought and interaction. And I missed Valentine's Day. I wanted it back, and not just to have another mate in my life, but to have the celebration of love and compassion and admiration for all of human kind. I wanted to have faith in people again, even though they sometimes die and leave us alone in paradise.
I wanted to trust and ultimately believe that life and death with or without cancer is the way it's supposed to be. And so I began to believe that.
And now I have my own cancer. Male breast cancer is a rare one, but we have plenty of support, and lots of good people doing good things. I, too, may die from it one day. And I know that my new wife (ironically, we've been married 14 years) will be able to have a fulfilling, second life of her own if it turns out that way. And life will go on.
But for now, I have a special Valentine and an undisputable faith in life's perfection. Just as it is.
Every Valentine's Day Khevin and his wife celebrate the life of Meg Chrysler-Barnes by viewing a memorial video that was created in her honor on the day of her passing at the age of 47. February 14, 1997