Over the Thanksgiving weekend, my daughter and I made a pilgrimage east to be with my husband’s family. Five hours flying, then another five hours driving as we made our way up into the beauty that is the Adirondacks.
It is ironic that is this gathering was meant to be a family reunion. We had not all been together – descendants of mother, Betty and father, Chaunce, in over seven years. Last fall Mike and I had travelled to Maine to vacation and hang with his cousin and it was there that the plan was made to gather all the family for Thanksgiving.
I wasn’t sure if I had it in me to go. This time of the year, this royal flush of holidays, is particularly charged, laden with rituals and traditions – glaring now with his missingness.
But I am beyond grateful that we went.
He would have loved this weekend. I can imagine him there; relishing his clan, eating too much, challenging his cousins to chess, running out with them to play soccer in the snow, curling up with a book by the fire, giving me his “I’m so very happy we are here,” grin.
Many of the family had not been able to make it to his memorial, so it felt good to come together over dessert to share about him; bittersweet that we were all gathered at the table because of him and he was not there. Though oddly, we miscounted the number of place settings and there ended up being one extra place … right next to me. So who is to say…
The final day we crunched through fresh fallen snow to take some of his ashes out to the garden; at the base of a twin trunked aspen we sprinkled them. We gathered in a circle to listen to a poem written in his honor, and to somehow warble the chorus to “What the World Needs Now.” He is joined there by others in the family who have gone before him and in spring they will plant a tree.
As the fire crackled Sunday afternoon, these words flowed onto a board with family photographs:
Time travelers to worlds unknown, waiting for us patiently on the other side. They must laugh at what awaits us. Words not found for places not seen.
“Surprise, surprise.” You chuckle.
My camper man, my motorcycle man.
Always you had bright eyes filled with such wonder.
Deep warm heart. Opening and unfolding.
There, always there. My rock, my roots, my love.
Woven into my heart and strands of thought.
Your spirit, your soul, rides my shoulder like a guide.
“Be not afraid,” you whisper. “We are infinite.
We are infinite.
And there are such wonders beyond.
But this life as we know it, is finite.
And this time, it is precious, precious time.
So Live. Live. Live. Live.
Arise to meet the sun.
And kiss the moon
And leap with the waves.
Live life. Love life.
Find wonder and laughter and joy,
Listen and explore.
Adventure, it is all such an adventure.
From the single snowflake to the mountain high.
From your first love to your final breath.
It is all such an adventure.
Listen to your heart
To the wind,
To the sand blowing across the dunes,
To the laughter and the sparkle.
And to the quiet. Most importantly,
Listen to the quiet.”.
Then, one by one, the gathering disbursed, as family members headed home, until it was our turn to pack up the car and share one last round of goodbyes.
The thing that struck me most profoundly, was that somehow his missingness has woven us tighter together. In the truth of this time as we hugged and cried and missed him and others who were gone, we opened and softened and revealed. In grieving together, we embraced and held each other and I felt I belonged in a way I had perhaps not fully allowed in the past. His family was truly now my family.
And though there were tears, sweetly enough there was also the promise of the next gathering. This was not goodbye forever. My camper man has planted the seed: Christmas 2019 – Costa Rica.
#grief, #widow, #survivingloss