Of late, I have had half a dozen people in my life die of a variety of reasons and causes. And these are people that perhaps have not been in my life for years, but at one point were significant or made an impression or simply were just always there as anchors in a life surrounded and enriched by so many others.
Take Bill. The stalwart German who I worked for a number of years back. Cleaned toilets in his tennis shop in high school. I was generally afraid of him most of the time, his gruffness, his solitude, but underneath all of that, I could see the hints of softness and graciousness. His mother, in her 80s, sat in the tennis shop, slipping me $5 and $10 bills in between scrubbing counters and sweeping floors. And Bill quietly (if not gruffly) went about his business. And then one day, I went off to college and returned and met him again, and we had coffee and he asked me if I'd read his book he'd written from the point of view of a dog. He'd never shown it to anyone but he heard I was a writer and thought I might have some advice for him. So we chatted and I read and we shared a connection over writing, over dogs, over things lost and remembered.
And now Bill may he rest in peace.
Take Etsa. Our Italian friend. Her husband employed my brother when he was a teenager. And over the years, as the younger sister, I tagged along to parties at their house. I tagged along to meals, grown and picked and sauteed at their house. The meals started with one course and ended in the seventh or eighth course. First the pasta and the sauce and the lamb and beef and bread and more pasta and fruit and the final course of salad when you just felt that you couldn't eat any more. And the homemade wine to go with each course. You left the table not sure if you were more full than you were tipsy or was it more tipsy than you were full.
And Etsa struggled with cancer and lost the battle but before she did, she made sure to can 170 quarts of tomato sauce so that Ben had something to eat when she was gone. How much more beautiful can love get than 170 quarts of homemade tomato sauce from tomatoes grown in your own garden.
Farewell, Etsa. Rest in peace.
Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. Hardly two people that should appear in the pages of a grief blog that has to do with stillborn babies and grandmothers. But who hasn't thought of them in the last couple of weeks. And who, as a 40 something year old woman, hasn't remembered those high school years of trying to get the hair to flip just right, to have the same tan and to let the spaghetti string of her tee, fall just right over the shoulder and onto the arm. And who hasn't just once tried to moonwalk again in their kitchen in between stirring pots and pouring drinks. Who hasn't listened to Billy Jean on the radio in the last few days? And so in some small (or is it large) way, those two have shaped my life as well.
Aside from the poorly told jokes and the flippant comments about their lives, there is a kind of grief. A childhood lost and remembered. A high school love gone bad. A memory of what was and can never be again. For in those moments of carelessness and recklessness, there was the belief in angels solving crimes and music rescuing love.
Farewell to Farrah and Michael, linked perhaps by nothing more than sharing a day of memorialization and a life of tabloid jabs. Rest in peace.
As so the grief arrives in the most surprising ways. Grief comes in the memories of their faces, in the small shift of pages across the table as I turn to the next chapter. The grief comes in the memories of lamb that melts into my mouth; who knew that lamb could be so tender as to melt. Who knew that wine poured from a recycled and well-used bottle could taste that strong, that fresh, that full of ripeness. The grief comes in the passing of their lives and the memories of their stories as they shaped and turned and in some small way created the person that I've become.
And grief is forever linked to love, and in that love lies the reason for being and the reason for knowing that today, one more person who I've never met will touch my life and find a way to affect my soul in this surprising and unexpected journey that we call living.