When Peter romantically proposed to me at a charming little French bistro in New York City a few blocks walk from my apartment on East 63rd Street, he told me that there will be many surprises. Obviously he didnít have a crystal ball to look into to know what the future would hold for us, but he felt confident we were going to live a happy life together. Weíd been good friends for twenty years and we both knew each other well enough to be able to judge character.
Our souls touched our essence long before we were romantically attracted to each other. He could have given Socrates a run for his money because Peter was a genius questioner, making him a brilliant cross examiner as an international trial lawyer. Peter and Socratesí method of trying to arrive at the truth was by asking questions. At my urging, I eventually encouraged Peter to write a book he titled, The Art of Questioning: 30 Maxims of Cross Examination, that is a classic text at law schools.
By the time I said yes that magical evening, hidden in a cozy back corner sipping a glass of white wine, dreaming about the joy of living a beautiful life together, I believe now as I did then: we both knew pretty realistically what we were getting into. We knew it wouldnít be easy to merge our families and we were conscious of our 19 Ĺ year age difference. His only obvious hesitancy was our age gap, ďWhen youíre 50, Iíll be 70.Ē With the delicious luxury of hindsight where I can understand our autobiographies better because our marriage, from beginning to end, has already occurred, I can say with certainty that Peter and I had a fairy tale love story. While the marriage is over, the love continues to grow in unexpected, unanticipated, astonishing ways.
Quite simply, we were both surprised by joy every hour we lived together. The artful questioner helped me to follow my bliss, to live a life of my dreams and find meaning and fulfillment in my work. Always and right up until he died, Peter encouraged me to continue to write and give my all to my work. Because of his Socratic method, he helped me to stay true to my core values, to live by my own rules, and to celebrate everything that is true, good, and beautiful.
Almost 45 years later I communicate with Peterís spirit, asking him every conceivable kind of question and, by the sense of his presence, Iím able to feel his answers by my calm quiet joy. So much of the depths of my feelings about Peter are indefinable, but writing about our love, our happiness, and his good end as he entered his next life, brings me as close to Peter as is humanly possible. I egg Peter on in order to have his spirit haunt me. Not only do I dream about Peter with great regularity, but his ghost or invisible spirit energy frequents me throughout my waking hours. Because he comes to my mind continuously, I am surprised by joy.
The force of love is stronger than death, and while there will always be skeptics who are disbelieving in this ability to communicate after death of the body, for all the incredulous people, there are some enlightened souls who are motivated by love and are able to live deeply without the barriers of beginnings, endings, or the limits of time and space.
We all know life is in constant flux. Go with the flow is true wisdom. Bend and be straight is true wisdom. Impermanence creates life without end. Peterís spirit melts into mine. Wherever I am Peter is fused with me. He is everywhere, and while Peter doesnít answer me in words, his signals at times are loud and clear in the form of energy changes in my body.
We are all terribly ignorant before an event takes place to knowing how weíre going to feel, because death hasnít yet separated us. All my emotions are mingled with joy and sorrow. Iím incrementally healing and have bypassed grief. Everyone is different. Each of us experiences things uniquely and only one who has gone through a similar situation can understand. We can be compassionate. We can be empathetic. We can love. What Iíve learned from Peterís death is how many thousands of people have deep connections to him. When people talk to me about all the different beautiful ways Peter touched and changed their lives, they cry. I cry. We share happy stories, all the flood of memories pour out, and somehow we are cleansed, feeling our tears are holy water where weíre blessed by Peter Brown, the gate keeper to heaven.
I have the clearest memory of the morning the movers delivered my furniture to his apartment after we returned from our honeymoon. After Peter left to go to his law office at One Wall Street, one of the movers, David, asked me if Mr. Brown was a minister. I laughed and said no, heís a lawyer and heís a saint.
Our dear, dear friends Kerri and Matt, gave me a precious gold bracelet of Saint Peter. Take my word for it, Peter is a saint. Not only was he extremely virtuous, worthy of veneration, he was the kindest, most loving gentle soul Iíve ever known. When weíd be on book tours, people fell in love with Peter, naming their sons and dogs Peter, wanting to clone him. A few years ago Peter and I were dining with our mutual friend Carl Brandt in one of our favorite restaurants. I was assisting Peter to get to the bathroom and apparently Carl had a tear well up when he was alone at the table. The manager Erin, who met Peter when she was a young teenager, went up to the table, ďMr. Brandt, to know Peter Brown is to love him.Ē Our 6'5" Harvard educated intellectual literary agent friend shed a tear. Join the club!
The weekend of Peterís birth date, March 15th, we celebrated his 93rd birthday. Brooke, Cooper and Tony came for the weekend. Alexandra sent dozens of rainbow roses. We strung up Happy Birthday streamers. Friends dropped in. In a word, it was joyous. The more we lift Peter Brown up on angelís wings, the happier we all are.
Cooper turned 6Ĺ the 16th of March. She selected butterfly wings at the toy store to celebrate Peterís birthday and her becoming 6Ĺ. Attaching her pink and purple cape to her fingers, she gleefully danced around smiling, thinking about and describing in vivid colorful detail, Peterís celebration in heaven.
One of the surprising things that I experienced in March wasnít the snowstorms or the magical beauty of the pink moon, or the joy of having daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, and roses cheering up our cottage, but going to the movies with two friends and their young children to see Cinderella. Cooper had seen it twice and told me Iíd love it. I was not prepared to be swept off my feet. Leo, age 8, Peterís painting buddy, felt once was enough. When he was off at a sleepover the end of the month, we had a girlís night out and went to Ė guess what Ė Cinderella! Peter would have loved this movie because in so many ways we lived a kind of magical life, and he completely swept me off my feet.
Brooke told me ahead of time that everyone sheís talked to who have seen the movie, cried. I cried and cried, and having dinner after the movie, the happy tears kept flowing. The music, the scenery, the acting, the romance, Cinderellaís motherís death scene, the Kingís deathbed scene, the first dance at the ball, and awareness that a simple country girl can win over Prince Charming because of her inner heart and her knowing you donít have to accept life as it is but envision how it can be.
Cinderellaís mother told her to have courage and be kind and have a touch of magic, and believe in a fairy godmother; the King told the Prince to marry for love. When Lily, age 11, asked her mother and me why Cinderella forgave her wicked stepmother, it opened up lots of interesting conversations.
Before closing, I want to thank each of you for helping me keep Peterís spirit so vitally alive. Your cherished memories, cards, notes and generous, kind words are music to my ears. Living alone is quiet. I treasure every story, every memory, every compliment. Please keep them coming because your encouraging words to me are inspiring, strengthening, and bring me great delight.
Besides being transported into another world by the movie Cinderella, Marchís snow brought a winter wonderland I loved to play in, knowing the flowers are under those millions of diamonds of color and sparkle. A book club selected, The Shared Wisdom of Mothers and Daughters. To my happiness I could hardly get a word in edgewise. I couldnít have had more fun.
Please come to see me April 17th and 18th at Johns Hopkins, where Iím talking about Happiness at Every Stage of Life. On Saturday May 9th, the day before Motherís Day, Iíll be returning to Terrain in Westport, Connecticut for a talk at noon, followed by a book signing from 1 PM to 3 PM. This store is a sanctuary paradise on earth. They have a garden cafť and terrace. Please come and bring friends and letís celebrate together! [See the Events Calendar page for contact and location information to these events.]
Happy Easter! Happy Spring! Great love to you and deep gratitude.