That week I invite anyone who ever knew Kona to a Christmas gathering at my house to say goodbye to her. My new neighbors and some old acquaintances show up, and her vet brings a soft blanket for Kona to lie on. The cancer hurts the worst where it started in her shoulder, so she lays on her less painful side at the top of the stairs where she can see everyone. She thwacks her tail on the hardwood floor as people with wet eyes line up single-file and bend down on their way out to rub her belly, some giving up the fight and crying for what seems like forever with their heads on her disintegrat≠ing shoulder.
The last guests make their way down the stairs, past the lit-up tree, and out into the night, where their worlds keep on turning toward Christmas Day, New Yearís Eve, and the rest of their lives. I lean against the counter and feel my world sputter a little and lurch forward and back until I pick Kona up, lay her in my bed, sit on the edge, and wait for it all to stop.
She slowly deteriorates but surprises everyone with her bright eyes and resilience, and it is midsummer of the fol≠lowing year before she dies in my living room with her head on my lap. A single tear emerges from the corner of her eye, trickles down her gray muzzle, and disappears into the fabric of my shorts. A friend who is there to help says that it might look like she is crying but itís just her body reacting to death, and I say to myself, Itís the same thing. I leave the three folded pages I have written to her earlier that day next to her body and cry my way through our old beach run until I canít see through the tears and sit on the sand with my head in my hands, watching everything I thought would happen by now trickle through my fingers into a pool at my feet.
So, me and the leaves are barely hanging on when I get the letter.
Every year around this time, I feel a little nostalgic and sad, because this is the season when I lost someone who meant a great deal to me. You see, I am one of the lucky ones, I have experienced the amazing connection of love with a soul mate. A real kindred spirit. Unfortunately, he passed away a few years ago, but I still consider myself lucky, not only because I have felt true love, but I have lost it as well and that too can be consid≠ered a gift; for I now know even more than before just how pre≠cious life and love are. Of course, I am not always able to smile through the day, sometimes I still miss him, painfully so. Like in autumn, not only the time of year when he was taken from me, but also the time we loved best. So, every year around this time, when the memories fill me, I write him a letter. I thought Iíd share it with you, not so youíd write a song for he and I, but because I think your songs are gifts. Pieces of yourself used to help other people with their stories. So, here is a piece of myself. It is all I have to share in return for the wonderful thing you are doing with your music and your talent.
I donít know Emily or how she has heard any of my songs, but folded behind her letter to me is the one she has written to her partner earlier that autumn. I open the parchment-thin pages, and the auburn-colored leaves included in the envelope fall out onto the table along with a photograph of a man with his arms outstretched, who I assume is Emilyís soul mate. And the air catches in my throat as I begin to read.
I can feel my heart beat faster as I crawl inside Emilyís letters and feel her loss and love and gratitude, different from my own but the same at its source. As I read I realize that Iím allowed into her words because she received me somehow: she heard a song of mine somewhere, connected to it, and let me in. Someone was listening.
Read Emilyís letter to her soulmate and the song it inspired at The Autumn: Emily’s Letter.
Singer-songwriter and Hay House author Alex Woodard has toured nationally behind five critically-acclaimed albums, earning prestigious industry nods and sharing the stage with some of today’s most popular acts. His book and album package, For The Sender, features his story of release and redemption woven through songs written about real-life letters. When he’s not surfing in his beach town north of San Diego, Alex lives with a big dog and bigger horse in the mountains of Idaho.
Excerpted with permission from For the Sender: Four Letters, Twelve Songs, One Story, by Alex Woodard (Hay House, Sept. 2012), a unique book, album, and concert event. Proceeds generated by the songs from each letter go to a cause of the senderís choice. Share your story and read othersí at www.FortheSender.com.
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