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Finding Hope, Part II

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First the sun, then the rain.
Darkness fades away, light begins.

I have spent a ridiculous amount of time on this wedding song. I am revising and revising. I play it for my two sons. The 4-year-old wanders off to play indoor soccer in the lounge before I get to the second verse. The 8-year-old tells me that he likes the music, but the words are too long. He thinks Solo might get bored.

(This is the second part of a post called "Finding Hope," which is the conclusion of my HuffPost series on surviving separation. Part I of Finding Hope can be found here)

I laugh and start to think of what to cut out. I want it to be good even though I may have to send it to Solo on a cassette tape. I simply don't have the money to pay for the airfare.

Then I ring my family in the states. My mother asks if I am going to the wedding. I say there are complications, and it does not look likely.

The next day my father rings back and asks if money is the problem. I say no -- it's the lack of money. He gives me his love and then his American Express card number. Seven days before the wedding, I am on my way.

Don't run away ..
If you feel like leaving,
That's when you should stay.
Your fear is... a call for courage.
Your hurry's... a sign to wait.


Saturday the 20th of September, 11,000 kilometers from New Zealand. I feel I could spit and with a tailwind hit the Canadian border.

The sun shines. Warm, clear, ripe. The breeze is so gentle is makes no noise in the trees. Solo and Janet will be wed in a few hours, on a green grassy area overlooking a canyon of dry grass and pines. Granite peaks rise in the distance -- barren except for patches of snow that cling to crevices in shadow.

Solo ambles by. He touches, he kisses, he laughs. So many people love him dearly. He smiles, but he is nervous. I think of all that he has in front of him. I offer to help. I tell him I love him. He ambles away.

Please stay with me.
Try again to show me what you see.
I don't have any answers.
Our future's a mystery.
But I do like life's surprises.
And the spark of spontaneity.

I've spent most of the day singing and playing the guitar on the grass. All my greatest hits. Al fresco. I wait till the bride and groom are out of earshot and I practice my gift for them. They haven't heard it yet.

Solo returns. He says my singing and playing is beautiful.

I offer to play my song in the ceremony. He says he'll let me know. But he means no thanks.

I feel alone. Most of my peers from university are here with their partners, some with children. My boys are in New Zealand. My marriage is broken. I am just me here. The freedom is lovely, light and unbearably sad.

The ceremony approaches. Solo asks me to give him a massage. He says he feels happy. He says if he starts to cry when he says his vows, he'll just stop and try again. I am feeling strange, I am feeling sad. I say little to him, concentrating instead on the massage, kneading his muscles, helping him to relax.

By the time I shower, I'm running late. I arrive as Solo makes his appearance. Unwilling to sit still, I pull out my camera and start taking photographs. All through the service, I snap away, listening, but also looking for shots. A witness to a togetherness I have lost. I never take a seat.

Afterward, as the champagne is being poured, I finally put away my camera. I realize the lens and the film and the idea of taking some good shots for Janet and Solo were all just a way of coping.

No I don't have any answers.
I'm only certain. of uncertainty
But I do like life's surprises.
And the spark of spontaneity.

The dance floor empties for the last time. The band packs up. The toasts of Solo's friends and family still ring in my ears. I slip away into the darkness, walking in the pine-scented night, under the icing sugar sky. The stars are my only company. The wedding was beautiful. I am happy for Solo and Janet. But love is a shitty spectator sport.

The next morning, after breakfast, Solo finds me. They are ready to hear my song. I sit down in their hotel room. I say it is a song for them, a song that comes from my experience.

I sing the first four lines... and then... and then... and then... my mind goes blank. I keep playing the guitar but I cannot remember anything. I have practiced this song dozens of times in the past few days. But the words desert me.

I feel foolish. Such a buildup. Such a false start. But I remember Solo's words. If he mucks up the vows, he'll just start again.

I stop. I start again. This time, I remember. And with all my heart, I sing of my loss and their gain, of hope and disappointment, of love and the wisdom of not knowing.

Halfway through, I look up. There are tears streaming from Solo's eyes. I have touched them. In a hotel room, in the mountains of Washington, my words my life my love my song have connected me to them.

I finish playing. It is quiet. They thank me. It is quiet some more. I feel at peace. I hug them both. I feel their love for me. And I understand. Nothing is truly wasted. Everything matters. When I feel love, I am alive. I am not alone.

First the sun, then the rain.
Darkness fades away, light begins.

"This ring is a symbol of our love. Endless, simple, strong and beautiful.
It is a symbol of renewal. A sign that in spite of life's challenges, we can always start again ... With this ring, I join my life to yours."

In the summer of 2001, saying those words, I slipped a wedding ring around Kathleen's finger and became a married man once again. Tears brimmed in my eyes and I felt very, very happy.

It was 5.5 years after my first wife and I separated. It was almost four years after I had found hope again while attending my friend Solo's wedding. And there I was, aged 42, with my sons, my friends and my extended family all around me, embarking on life's big adventure again.

I felt no fear.

I felt no worry.

I felt blessed to have such a wonderful woman to be my partner.

I felt happy to be alive.

I don't claim to understand it. And I certainly don't claim to deserve it. But I do appreciate my relationship with Kathleen very deeply.

For I am a guy who felt he had everything and lost it -- a guy who hurt, who healed, and who found love again.

For more by Steven Crandell, click here.

For more on love, click here.

This is the conclusion of my blog series. I call it "For Men Who Have Everything, Including a Broken Heart -- Thoughts on Surviving Separation."

My goals are straightforward:

  • Offer hope and humor to men who are disconsolate after a relationship has hit the rocks
  • Offer a resource to women -- sisters, mothers, friends -- who care about such men

I wrote "For Men Who Have Everything, Including a Broken Heart" because I would have liked a book like this when my first marriage nose-dived.

I offer it in a spirit of brotherhood and with a strong faith that once our broken hearts mend, we have the capacity to be more compassionate, wiser, more resilient and stronger than we were before.

For those interested in reading the earlier posts of this series, links are provided below:

#1 -- For Men Who Have Everything, Including a Broken Heart, Thoughts on Surviving Separation
#2 -- Grieving is Healing
#3 -- Beware Precipitous Action
#4 -- Love Thyself
#5 -- Deal with the Real
#6 -- Blame is a Trap
#7 -- Create Multiple Explanations
#8 -- Freedom, Courage & Splitting Up
#9 -- Parenting Apart: Soccer and Wandering in Life's Changes
#10 -- Cut the Conflict in Front of the Kids
#11 -- The Next Relationship
#12 -- Beware the Penis Imperative
#13 -- Surviving Separation -- Getting to Know Myself Again
#14 -- Something All Men Share
#15 -- Just Being
#16 -- Finding Hope, Part I

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