I’m not sure you believed in them, but that doesn’t matter. As if Christmas wasn’t already a time of sadness this year, word comes that someone I loved for many a long year, has suddenly died.
No warning, no time to say goodbye, no last “I love you.” Just a phone call, “I have bad news.” Tears falling all day, reaching out to those who’ve been estranged, finding common ground in shared grief – is the only good thing to come of this.
It won’t last, but for now, we hurt together. I may not make the funeral, traveling to NY at this time of year is not the best of ideas – between snow and holiday traffic, it will probably be a nightmare. And the Bear doesn’t want me to go. My heart wants to be there, but my brain is saying to think it over – no one will hold it against me. (Well, they probably will, but they’ll fake it unless they’re talking when I’m not there, and then I won’t know and won’t care.)
The tears continue to fall, as they have so often this year. January has long been the month I feared. And then February – a month of snowstorms that lock us into our house, with a driveway that’s impassible, the chance of losing power and the constant stress of forecasters screaming about the end of the world unless we all stock up on toilet paper. Max got sick in February this year. I knew – even as my mind denied it – my heart knew he would be gone by the end of the year, by summer. I knew. March brought appointments with the vet, chemo, watching him try so hard to stay with me and just being so tired. He left us in April.
May brought Maverick. The one happy event this year, surrounded by the anniversary of my father’s death, and my mother’s birthday, a reason to smile again.
June brought Maverick home – and brought sleepless nights and worry and crazy puppy antics and more worry and tears and missing Max and loving this bundle of energy who has no idea that he isn’t the first and best dog to ever live in this house.
But there was sadness still – friends who lost parents, diagnoses of strange diseases, loved ones aging and failing.
Days pass, we think they’re infinite. We think we have forever to do the things we want, and to call tomorrow, say we’re sorry, talk it out, “go there.”
Then the phone rings, and there are no more tomorrows and no more chances and was it worth it to hold onto that anger for so long?
My niece hasn’t spoken to me in several years. I don’t know why. I told her brother to give her a hug, and that I hoped that maybe she could let things go, that whatever was the problem could be resolved. He told me not to count on it.
Another thing to think about – if she doesn’t want me at the funeral, what do I do? Does her misplaced anger deny me the chance to comfort my sister, my nephew, my great nephews and great niece?
And in all this, will the man who was my friend, and my big brother, be forgotten? I will remember him, and tell the stories, and pray that the angels sang him home – and that he’s having a beer with Poppa, or maybe a few.