WHEN the great pianist Vladimir Horowitz, who had in effect been exiled from communist Russia, returned to his homeland for a concert, he was 83. The concert hall was sold out. But people gathered outside and opened windows, sat on curbs and sidewalks, and wept as the music poured.
The American painter known as Grandma Moses didn’t begin producing her distinctive New England scenes until well into her 70s when severe arthritis prevented her from pursuing her first art form: needlework.
The poet Anne Porter, who died last year, published her first book of poetry in her early 80s. The book was nominated for the US National Book Award. Porter continued to write for many years.
These examples highlight the long life expectancy of individuals engaged in creative endeavours. Something similar can happen in long marriages.
The ease of intimacy and the gestures of love that connect spouses are life-giving and renewing. Without losing a sense of autonomy, there is the shared experience of enjoying the fruits of solidarity: a wider circle of children and their children, generation after generation as God has always promised.
The experience of ongoing community allows for spouses to explore their own interiority, what has been called “the silent land”, the dwelling place of God.
The poet Rilke describes this as two solitudes side by side, looking out the window, seeing what? Perhaps the distant land.
What awaits us in the late years of marriage is the opportunity to explore new aspects of creativity, alone and together. These choices, joined with others made along the way, point us to new adventures in grace. But then the inevitable happens. One partner dies.
From experience, I know the loss feels like an amputation. Where before there were two solitudes together, now there is one. It is almost too much to bear.
But slowly, if one continues to enter the silent land of prayer and meditation, and if rituals of solitude are created, the life of the lost beloved can become ever more present.
The realisation grows that he or she lives within you. The doctrine of the communion of saints is no longer just an intellectual concept but a known reality.
The words of St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians that “love never dies” then overflows with meaning.
By Dolores R. Leckey - CNS