This week was the solstice and in the morning light seeps in, even through the closed blinds and the pulled curtains. I want to keep sleeping, but the light and the birds wake me before seven and once I remember all our simple but complicated plans - Mia's first day of summer "enrichment" with its four part schedule she will need to navigate without her mother, Nora's first day of camp swim lessons which means a return to swim diapers and rubber pants necessitated by the daily dose of Miralax - there will be no returning to darkness and oblivion.
Which is a way of saying that life makes you go on.
My uncle Phil died the first day of June. I had gone to see him in Kansas City two weeks before. For two days I was able to drive Ruth to the nursing home and help her sign the hospice forms and sit with her next to his bed as he slept. For this I will always be grateful. The new room Ruth had requested sat at the end of the hall and Phil had a window that looked on the leaves of an adolescent tree. We sat silently in the dim room, next to his bed, and it felt like a few holy moments of time. I did not want to leave him. I wanted more of him, even if he was only able to answer questions with few words and once, after Ruth complimented his freshly combed hair, make a sweetly funny face that showed a flash of the self-mocking humor we knew as well as we knew the man himself.
He died at the age of eighty-five, long past our expectations, so the news was not a surprise, just painful as a motherfucker.
At the memorial service, however, other surprises fell like a soothing rain - that I was able to plow through the tribute I'd written despite my squealy voice and running nose, that so many dear dear friends and relatives and neighbors came to show their support, including Mike Love from Colorado, that the flowers were so beautiful, that I had no resistance to the minister's traditionally comforting words of future reunions and perfect love, that the chestnut "In the Garden" (Is there a more romantic waltz in the hymnal?) could work wonders on my heart, that my dear old high school friend Tonya would show up and we'd reconcile so easily, that my cousin Jan would delight my girls with gifts of stuffed animals at the post-service lunch, that my brother Ron would decide not to fly back to Denver but instead remain in Kansas City to live closer to family again.
That I could feel these tiny surprises, almost approaching a kind of joy, on such a hard day is, of course, another sign of life breaking through the dulling and numbing binds of grief.
The best moment came back at the house after our girls had a little break at the hotel and the guests had gone. Ron and Randy and Ruth and me and Jeanne and Jan sat in the kitchen and talked and laughed and ate some of the dishes neighbors had kindly brought. The girls had already gobbled their chicken nuggets and asked to go play. The four of us who grew up in this house and the woman who raised us and my husband who helped me make a new family sitting together in one room - it felt like home. Yet as whole as that feeling was, we knew someone was missing from the table and this time he wasn't napping on the couch downstairs or flipping channels in his office. The reminders of his absence were everywhere to seize you up in the chest and gut and bring back some of the dark inside that it will take many mornings to fully let go.