On a dark afternoon in early December not too long ago, we closed the door on my late husband’s office for the last time. My oldest son said, “It was a good run,” reentering the office once more as if looking for something or someone he had lost.
Locking the door, I took a deep breath as I do now many times per day. As usual the old hallway smelled a bit musty. Sounds and smells from the restaurant below wafted up the stairway.The other doors in the hallway warmed the area with light from within. The one I locked, Tony’s door, was dark. Soon new life will again warm this door, but not today. Not in this moment of finality.
We descended the steep stairs in quiet not looking back and parted on the street below. My son heading with a load of things from the office to his new college apartment. I with three sets of now useless keys not wanting to go home. The outside air smelled fresh and of impending snow–a smell I usually love in winter especially during Advent. The air bolstered me a bit, woke me up to the life before me even in the midst of closing the past.
Thirteen years ago last November, Tony and I opened The Men’s Center. It was Tony’s dream, his calling, to do this work which began by opening his heart and skill set to male survivors of child sexual abuse and grew into working with and for people suffering from sexual addictions. In those early days we debated the tag line for the business for what seemed like forever until finally settling on a place for healing, mindfulness, and possibilities. Our niece, Marissa, created the beautiful and heartfelt logo and webpage. We rented an office near our home and bought office supplies
Then the work began and as a family the boys and I often saw only the beginnings and endings of Tony’s days. The beginnings, hurried moments for all of us trying to prepare for our days of work and school. The days’ ends, an exhausted and quiet human being used up willingly in the work of healing who told corny jokes to let off steam if anyone would listen. Vacations were often not free from his work for any of us. One year while hiking in the Santa Catalina foothills, we watched and worried as Tony tried desperately to save a client’s life on a cell phone with poor reception. Another year he spent hours on the phone planning his book, Facing Heartbreak.
In the wake of his death, I can only imagine the healing which occurred within the walls of Tony’s various offices. The boys and I bore witness as Tony would say, to so many stories told to us in person and through cards and letters after his death. So many stories. So many lives changed and in some cases saved. These stories kept me afloat that first month after his death when I could hardly think or feel. Stories which reminded me it had all not been in vain even as I looked out over our deck every morning donned in widow’s black wondering how the future could happen without him.
The week before closing the door for the last time, I gathered our children, my mother, and our pastor to say goodbye to The Men’s Center. Empty and dusty, the space which housed this dream had already lost its warmth as a space for healing. For a few moments we stood in a circle in the middle of the office talking of vocation and the Spirit filled early days of the business when I never knew how anything would get paid for yet there was always money. Then we prayed acknowledging the courage this business took to create and maintain while reminding ourselves that this same courage will help us live now without Tony.
So on this very snowy night during our first Christmastide without him, I pay tribute to the work Tony did. Work I supported. Work which defined Tony and in many ways defined our family. Work I could be resentful of. But work I was and am still in awe of. Work which will always be to me and maybe to our children, synonymous with Tony’s very being, his soul made more fully known to the world than most through his courage and sacrifice.
It was a good run my darling. It was a very good run.