My daughter and this gentle young man were at the kitchen counter last night, heads together as they worked out a solution to Einstein's famous quiz. Outside, the snow piled up, blowing furiously all through the day and night. We ate Christmas leftovers until, at nine in the evening, my husband and daughter decided to roast a chicken and bake potato wedges in rosemary and olive oil, and wonderful aromas filled the house. We dined at midnight then settled down to watch a whole new movie, since no one had to be up early the next morning.
I have often reflected on my son's gift for friendship. He is rock solid, generous, funny, kind. But he also chooses well; his friends give him back the same loyalty and love. I suspect sometimes that his closest friends are his soul group, that they have incarnated together many times before, and know each other at the core. His friends recognize and appreciate his constancy. They also understand his occasionally prickly and contrary nature, they shrug when he gets like that, they laugh and say, "Oh, that's how he is sometimes," and soon my son comes out of it, because no one is following him to his cranky country, they're letting him blow of steam there in safety and peace, and I could learn a thing or two from his friends.
We did venture out into the snow to check on my aunt, to bring her Christmas gifts and cookies and bites of food, but mostly we stayed cocooned in our bubble, puttering and cooking and working out puzzles and drifting away to different corners of the house and coming back together to talk and laugh and cook some more and watch movies and marvel at the snow piling up and up outside. My son, who ran to the store for his dad and sister, remarked this was more snow than he has ever seen in the city. And then we all told snow stories. It was all so stream of consciousness.
But somewhere out there beyond the snow, I discerned the flares. Other people were having a very different kind of Christmas. One of my cousins was trying to steady her children for their parents' looming divorce, and her move this week from the family home. One of my nieces, whose wedding I was to attend in Jamaica next month, called to say the ceremony had been canceled, the reasons were personal and would not be discussed. She sounded strong, much stronger than her mother, whose heart is breaking for her, and my mother, who my brother noted takes on everyone's aches as if they are her own. My family in Jamaica was a little shaky this Christmas, pasting on a brave smile and pushing forward. My husband and his siblings were dealing with another holiday without their beloved mother, and the lonely silences that have developed in her absence. And in Virginia, my friend Tamara was sitting with her mother and sister at her dad's bedside, keeping the final vigil. She posted updates on Facebook that were full of sorrow and wonder and tenderness, a painfully exquisite record of the end of her father's life.
"He is speaking the most beautiful language that we cannot understand with his familiar gestures and facial expressions. It sounds like something ancient."
"We sit, one on each side, and listen. Just listen. It is ceremony. We are honoring and honored. Every moment shimmers."
I read her posts and wept for her, and ineptly wrote her my love and prayers. And then on Christmas day the status updates changed.
"Everywhere I look I see something he touched, made, fixed, loved. Daddy. I am never going to stop missing my Daddy."
And I realized he was gone.
Tamara, my beloved friend, I think you will understand my desire to repost your words here. I want to remember them, and to keep this record of the breathtaking way in which your shared your father's last moments on this earth with those of us who love you. Through your stories over the years, we had come to know the deeply good man who was your father. Such fathers must be held up to the world and remembered always. I send you love, dear Tamara, though I have no words to make your grief any less. How could we not grieve the loss of such a man as your father?
I am holding you now. I hope you can feel it somehow.