Deborah J. Haynes

Love & Death

In April 2024 my companion of nearly 40 years died of a traumatic head injury. I met David Thorndike in a yoga class in Cambridge, Massachusetts, during the first week after I had moved there to attend Harvard Divinity School. During the following 10 months we saw each other intermittently at public events before deciding to get to know each other. Our long path together was full of passion and laughter, and many shared joys such as travel to India, Mexico, and Europe, and listening to music, especially when Seiji Ozawa conducted the Boston Symphony Orchestra. We each felt deep appreciation for our differences, including our ages and life experiences. David used to say "I'm getting old faster than you are"; and I would laugh and say "I know." After I completed a PhD in the Study of Religion and Art History at Harvard, David moved with me to eastern Washington, where my university position teaching art history and theory kept me busy. While I shuttled to classes and around the world to conferences and international art activities, David stayed at home and became active in the local art museum, cared for mares and their foals in the 7-acre field adjacent to the house where we lived, and co-taught university Wilderness Survival classes. Though he never considered himself a writer, he also wrote eloquent essays about being in India, about raising horses, and about his experiences at the Union Boat Club in Boston, where he had spearheaded an effort to re-invigorate the old boat house and rowing program.

After following me reluctantly to Colorado for another teaching and administrative position in the arts, he became very active in the mountain town of Jamestown -- first serving as Mayor, then as a member of the Town Board, as an assistant commissioner for the local water plant, and as the floodplain coordinator. Over years he developed the first comprehensive collection of maps of the town and surrounding lands. To the dismay of at least one town resident, he also worked with the Forest Service to identify trees that were blighted by beetle investation, and with the help of young Hans Scott removed the sick trees. He was an active agent in a complex and long life, which ended after years of dementia during which I cared for him at home with the help of a care team. For the last months of his life, David lived in a nearby memory care facility. During this period, he had quite a few falls, the last of which was the cause of his death. As the days and weeks become months, I know that love transcends death.

As a postscript to this short reflection, readers may be interested in an essay I wrote in 2021 titled Loss, Suffering, and Death.

   Contemplative Space
   Other Forms