I found out recently that Bruce, a man I once knew, had died. Bruce passed through my life at a time when I was ready to grieve for my husband. Up until then, I had been numb and was trying to be strong for my daughter, Emilee. She was only five when her dad died, and I was twenty-nine. About six months later I met Bruce, a respected teacher and popular dance instructor. On a whim a girlfriend and I signed up for his class, and that first night Bruce and I danced together. Well, I think he danced with all the single women in the class. He was tall, had a twinkle in his eyes, and wore a Hawaiian shirt and a cowboy hat. By the end of that first class I had a crush on him. I couldn’t wait to see him again.
It felt good to be going out and having fun, something I hadn’t done in a long time. For a while after Jerry died I was completely overwhelmed. I wasn’t prepared for the reality of being a single parent and having to do everything myself. I also felt vulnerable, like I’d been thrown to the wolves. A man I hardly knew suddenly showed an interest in me, and even if his intentions were only to help a young widow, he scared me, so I pushed him away. What I wanted most at that time was to have my husband back so that he could help me understand how to go on without him.
And then I met Bruce.
The dance classes gave me a tentative step into my future. Bruce and I hit it off, and after a while he started coming over to my house after each class. We shared cups of tea and warm hugs. He met Emilee, and would sometimes tuck her into bed. He and I went out dancing once. I remember how nervous I was while getting ready that night. I hadn’t been on a date since I was a teenager, and I didn’t know what to expect, or what was expected of me. At one point during the evening Bruce must have sensed how I was feeling, because he reached down and playfully moved the sides of my mouth up into a smile. I relaxed then, and smiled for real as I looked up into his twinkling eyes.
Once the dance classes were over, it was time for us to part. I wasn’t ready for more, although I didn’t realize it at the time. I think Bruce did, though. I needed to grieve, and he helped me by gently opening my wounded heart. He offered me comfort when I really needed it, without asking for anything in return. He gave me a copy of his favorite book with a sweet inscription, and I wrote him a good-bye letter. His last words to me were, “I think we touched each other deeply” and I have to agree. I was sad to read that he had died. I know that his loss was felt by many. It occurred to me that if Bruce and I had stayed together, I might have lost another husband, and Emilee another dad.