This would be just over a year since my husband’s sudden death – sudden, though he had been ill on and off for nine years – two strokes, a pituitary tumor, and two heart attacks, the second one fatal. Last night I had been swathed in the glories of a vesperal liturgy and matins Christmas eve service at my new Antiochian Orthodox church, its beauties so exquisite as to penetrate my waves of sadness with recurring rays of upspringing light and hope. No grief was so deep as that unexpected Light. My current situation reminded me of a strange little violet that used to grow at our old home – tiny, dark amethyst, and intensely fragrant. This one small plant came up with dogged persistence on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation. Together the flower and I would celebrate Mary and her undying yes. Even under a foot of snow this tiny violet would first bloom on that date and that date only. After scrabbling with my fingers under the snow, I would find the dark green heart-shaped leaves cradling the little blossoms, kneel in the snow, and bow low to inhale the impossibly paradisial scent voluptuously upwelling in sumptuous generosity into the frigid air.
I did miss my husband terribly; we had spent twenty-eight wild and wooly years together. But, at the same time, strange little unexpected consolations would seem to come out of nowhere and as much against the odds as that fragile violet’s blooming. Even when feeling most alone, I realized that I was not alone. Heaven and earth were always all around me with little signs and gentle caresses. Some were big – the evening of my husband’s death, he himself came to me, full of joy. “I’m not sick anymore!” he cried to my inner ears. I could not see him but could feel him gracefully flashing around the room, like a supernatural figure skater. I could feel his resurrected freedom, and joy and relief conquered my sorrow for a while.
And there were the small consolations, breathing out of nature or the beauty of a verse that opened an unexpected doorway into deeper life. As if my life had been turned inside out, I felt that I was being asked to learn a new language of being, to read a subtle Braille that I had been too blind to sense when I thought I saw – but that now beckoned me to explore with inner fingers outlines of the unseen, faithful and mysterious, which enriched and underlay all life. And this pilgrimage continues. Now I find myself ten plus years after Mark’s passing, still on this endlessly surprising journey, still pursuing those delicate, unseen outlines, the rich fragrance pouring improbably from under deep snow. I even wrote a book in thanksgiving, and in the hope of perhaps encouraging other hearts to inhale deeply when most needed and read for themselves the message of a violet in the snow.
Stephani Nur Colby is a writer and editor living in Gloucester, Massachusetts, on beautiful Cape Ann, “the last stop before Portugal.” She is also a tonsured Psaltria (Psalmist/Cantor/Reader) of the Greek Orthodox Church, a member of the Sufi Inayati Order, and an energy healer. Her book Walking with the Ineffable: A Spiritual Memoir (with Cats) is scheduled for publication soon.
Stephani encourages you to check out the Free the Slaves organization, a group dedicated to alerting the world about slavery’s global comeback and to catalyze a resurgence of the abolition movement. Stephani also urges you to look into the various Maine Coon Cat Rescues.