Thursday, December 20, 2012

Missing You

Dear Susan,
It's a Thursday night and your local memorial service was on Sunday. It was a very nice service. The Rabbi's voice was so beautiful, I could hardly stand it. I can understand why you asked that she come to you and sing on your last evening here.

Ruth talked about you as a friend, I spoke about you (well, cried through my reading) as a family member and read my entry from a few weeks ago. A colleague spoke and Kim spoke. You would have been really proud of her. She made it through with no outbursts and what she wrote was, as you can imagine, beautiful. She shared it on her blog so I'm sharing it here too.

Dad told me to read mine through aloud on my own and I did that, but it didn't matter. There was a lot of grief in that synagogue, all for you, and I couldn't hold it in. But I don't embarrass easily so I didn't really care that I cried through the whole thing. At least I remembered to enunciate.  Were you listening?

After the service we all went downstairs for refreshments and chatted about you. There were over 200 people there! Some people approached me and told me that I did well. I was proud of myself. Swiss Baker catered and I had one of those chocolate nut cookies that you make around Christmas time. I thought to myself that you make them much better and then I had to focus on not losing it, realizing that I would never have one of yours again.

I'm missing you tonight.

Here's what Kim wrote; 

My dear dear Susan,
In the much-too-short video you left for me, you told that me one of the most important things to you in our long relationship was that I had come to share with you your love for Switzerland. Many of our sweetest memories together (and then with Gus) were there, the homeland of your beloved father Gaudi, who inspired in you his own love of Switzerland. I am so grateful you shared with me: Basel, Samedan, the Engadin, hiking . . .

Remember in 1996, when we stayed at Il Fuorn, in the Swiss Nationalpark?

On the way there, we stopped in Zernez to find hiking boots for me. You explained in apologetic but, of course, very good Swiss-German that I needed boots that were curt und brite (short and wide). The shopkeeper found some, and then made a custom fit for me by pounding out the toes with cobbler's tools.

The bus into the park went up an incredibly narrow, winding road next to a sheer drop-off. Just in time, I turned to follow your finger, pointing at the Tannenhäher, the bird your Dad had told us about, as it dove down to the valley below.

Remember the hallway at Il Fuorn?

It was lined with simple wooden doors on either side, most of them with dirty hiking boots carefully placed outside. We opened the door to our room, and found another door behind it. We decided the second door must be further insulation, against hallway noises. How Swiss!

LarchIt was October, your father's favorite month of the year, and the larch trees were bright yellow. As you would throughout your life, you reminded me: they are the only conifers that are deciduous.
The Hirsch, the Swiss elk, were in rut. In the middle of the night, a deep sonorous bellow, turning into a sort of shriek, woke us up. Remember that there was a bright moon that night? It was still difficult to see through the darkness, but finally we found it. There was the Hirsch, right outside our window, maybe a hundred feet away.

Until it got too cold and we had to dive back under the covers,
we stared out the window at the Hirsch in the field, with the path behind it that led to many other trails, along rivers, through Murmeli meadows, where the marmots whistle at passing strangers, up and down the shoulders and peaks of  mountains. 
Mountains, like Munt La Schera, which we first climbed together that year, and that we enjoyed so much that we later took Gus. To keep him going, we played Tour de France. You were George Hincape, I was Ivan Basso, and we chased eight year old Lance up the mountain, resting for all-too-frequent tire changes.
At the top: turn around and around and around.
You can see forever.
Mountain air surrounds us, its cold wind balanced by the warm sun in the brilliant blue sky.
We made so many wonderful memories together.
Being with you, and with Gus, on top of Munt La Schera, is a memory where I always know I will find us, together as a family, drinking in the spacious beauty of peace on earth,
and in the heavens.
Are you there now? On your pink cloud?
Wherever you are, I love you forever and ever,
your honeybean.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I'm Sorry, But That's Deeper Than Six Feet

Today you were buried in your family's plot. I drove with Christopher while Mom and Dad drove in another car with your Mom. As we approached the area, Christopher stated "So, this is what it's like to be in Connecticut."
"I think we're in New York."  I corrected him.
"So, this is what it's like to be in New York." he delivered with perfect comedic timing.

It was kind of hilarious. I think you would have laughed.

It was crazy cold outside, but the sky was super blue. As we approached your plot, your coffin was brought from the back of the hearse. While I do not want you in that box, it was such a beautiful one. I was actually struck by it. No metal, I was told, and all pine, down to it's screws even. There was a wood Star of David on top. How perfect was it that you are the first Jew to be buried there. Always original!

I stood alone. Perhaps it was selfish of me to not stand near others to offer a shoulder to lean on. Maybe I wanted to be alone because you were alone. I simply wanted to be able to see your box, and think of you and only you. I wanted all my energy on you. That's all.

I stood a pace away from others and let my feelings and thoughts go where they may. I bowed my head and watched a tear leave me and splash onto a rock near my foot. I walked over with everyone else and placed a flower on your coffin, and a handful of soil too. As it was time to walk away, I did not want to leave you to go into the cold ground in that simple box. Even though you are no longer in there and it's just the shell of you, I didn't want you to be alone. This is what bothered me most, but I guess it's something we all have to do at some point. Go on ahead alone.

The service that followed for you in the nearby chapel was really lovely. Poeple shared stories about you and I am so happy to learn new things about you from others who loved you. Christopher stood up and said a few words and mentioned something I had forgotten, that when we were very little and you would visit during your college breaks, we would sneak into your room at the crack of dawn and wake you by jumping into your bed. Such a fun memory!  I was glad he mentioned it.

Kim spoke about your spirituality and that was so nice to learn about too. I had no idea how spiritual you were. How funny that I never knew.  I hope it gave you some peace towards the end of your life.

About a week ago I had dinner with my friend Lauren and she remembered you fondly. She said something really nice, something that resonated with everyone today, that when you asked her how she was doing, you were genuinely interested to know the answer. That was always true!  That is a skill I am still trying to perfect. Listening. Really listening. I know that I will think of you as I try to learn to be better at this in my life.

Writing these entries in the form of a letter to you helps me. I can cry a lot and get it out and think of you. So thanks for helping me. Yet again.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Dear Silly Susan,

It has been nearly 24 hours since you left us. Mom said she woke this morning and felt deep within her that your were no longer here. I cannot say I feel the same.

I brought some breakfast stuff to Avon Street for your brothers and sister-in-law. We chatted, mostly about shit I don't care about. But then, what else do we talk about? You?  Well, yes, I guess we could talk about you. But you're not really gone, right? Right!? Because I cannot possibly wrap my brain around this reality.

My life without you in it.
Our lives without you in it.
This world without you in it.

Yesterday you were still here but not conscious. I walked the BU campus with my gear, aware of you and aware of more: the unusually mild weather, the lovely strong breeze, the sun and the blue sky—things that, in the past, I might have taken for granted. But now it felt different. I was appreciating it for you too. I sat on a bench and willed myself to feel the air and sun on my face and send it to you through some telepathic wavelength.

The night before I was given an amazing gift. The chance to talk to you for what I thought would be the last time. I was preoccupied with what to say to you. What could I say to help you feel better? No words would bring you more oxygen. What could I say to help you feel less alone. Very little I think.

It was no surprise that you took the lead as I sat down next to you: "I guess there's not much time. Not as much as I thought. . ." you told me through short breaths, the tube coming from your nose. "I can't really breathe and they can't fix it."
I didn't want to stay long. I didn't want to be selfish and rob others of their time with you. I have had my time with you. Definitely not enough but, good time, with stories and laughter and meals and hugs and tears even.

I looked you in the eye and although it wasn't necessary, told you I loved you.
Your eyes were so big and so brown and more soulful than I ever remember them being before. It was as if your entire life, all your feelings and emotions and memories, were stored safely within them. Preparing for travel. You were still in there, beneath that failing body. As I left you told me that you hoped you'd see me again. "But if I don't" you added, as I reached the door, "go forth with this young man"—and by young man you meant my new boyfriend, who you didn't hesitate to grill me about shortly after I sat down.

A few hours later I was granted the privilege of a "goodnight" with you. I kept this one even shorter for the same reasons as the first visit. Or maybe I was still feeling totally helpless and incapable of saying something right. I still wish I had planned better for this, thought of something better to say. But all I came up with was "I'll keep an eye on Gus". This is not because I think he needs watching. He will not want for love, nor does he even really need me. I meant, I think, that both Kim and Gus will always hold their place in the family. This is fact and will never change.

"Thanks for taking the torch for me" you breathed out, "because I can't do it anymore".  You were so tired from the fight. So tired.

And now you are gone and I will remind myself that you are not in pain anymore. You are no longer gasping for breath, feeling scared or worried. You are no longer feeling weird, awful side effects of all the poison put into your body in an effort to save it.

I am left with memories; a walk with you on the cape this past summer, slow but steady. It was your idea to cut a hole in the kitchen wall of my new house to make a pass-though window into the TV room (it will always be a brilliant idea and one of my favorite parts of the house). I have the memory of many rides in the back of your truck when I was a kid. I would holler up to you in the front, yelling over the wind "Take us under the highway!" (this was so we could create an echo under the overpass by yelling as we traveled underneath). "You got it, kiddo!" you yelled back from the driver's seat. Carving pumpkins, baking cookies. Building my fort with me (complete with a draw bridge and a trap door - it was quite sweet!). Waking me at four in the morning to take me to see the reenactment of the Paul Revere ride.  You coming to my soccer games and my marching band competitions. Our most recent project - me impersonating my mom and you impersonating Amelia Aerhart as a silly birthday present to my mom. How grateful I am, to have that video! So many dinners and lunches together. That's what I will remember. That and a lot more.

So, although I know I wont be alone in it, I will try and take the torch for you. With any luck I will not burn anything down.

Cyd the Kid