I’m not sure what my neighbors expected of us when we moved to suburban San Jose about a month ago. They would have been surprised if they were the kind of people who rise before dawn and peek over their neighbor’s fences.
This morning, I crawled out of bed, dressed carefully in a lilac dress I bought almost 10 years ago. I fished out my black cloak that I usually only use at Halloween, grabbed a tea light, lantern and matches and headed for the back yard.
Today I was supposed to be in Cumbria, Northern England. I had a walk planned from Gosforth towards Seascale. I’d find the curve, the right tree and I’d put flowers right at the spot where Jamie died. I’d stay and contemplate his life right there where it ended.
A global pandemic had other ideas. So, I improvised. Found a book of Jedi prayers and clicked where it said funerals and memorials. Then by the light of the dawn, I read the words. In my cloak, over my dress that I bought for Jamie’s memorial service held later in 2010.
I always thought that 10 years would be enough. That after all that time, all the changes: kids grown up, marriage over, new marriage, new house – heck even new continent – that I could leave it all behind. Grief always has other ideas. I read, voice cracking, tears down my cheeks and know that this individual is with me for life – well – my life.
I try and imagine what it would be like if the jigsaw of life had made slight adjustments that day. Leave Seascale later. Not stop to make a phone call. There are a thousand ways not to die that day. But death did come calling: anonymous, brutal, unexpected and sudden. And those around him were thrown into the air like salad ingredients falling back into a bowl in an entirely different place and configuration.
This part of that salad is back in the states now. I have new people who share my life. It is calm, relaxed, and measured. Today I made it through Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting. For people on the phone, I look fine, competent, professional. But I know that my makeup is disintegrating until I look like a ghoul with black eye sockets. The tears come and go. My sadness waxes and wanes. Amara manages to put flowers near where he died. I crumble. I talk about grammar rules for company documents and laugh. One big emotional roller coaster.
Early in the day I reach Leanne, his then fiancée. Her life is bursting with kids and home and her charity. She has grown a new life and yet, people still want to have her remember those sad days 10 years ago. She fights back. Says that there are other issues that we need to focus on right now. And she’s right.
For today, I don’t fight. I give in to pain and sadness and memories. The redwood tree, the squirrels and a few birds stand watch in incomprehension. The neighbors are safely in their beds.
Tomorrow the count begins again towards another year, another decade.
“May the Force bless you and keep you always.
May its light shine upon your face and be gracious unto you.
May its presence be with you now and for all the days of your lives,
And may It grant you peace and comfort, now and forever.”