It’s over and it’s just beginning. Some families fly apart when crisis strikes. Ours winds tighter than a top. It’s feeling very strange to be on the East Coast with AJ while everyone else is back in Chicago.
Plans are mostly made, tickets bought. Tomorrow we sort out the things we need to wear. I left the office midday today to come work at home, but I was too scattered to get much done, instead pacing around the apartment, not sure what to do with my hands.
Mostly it’s about lists, but occasionally the sadness hits, when trying to figure out how to end a phone call, while walking up tenth street with the Weepies’ “Can’t Go Back Now” shuffling onto my headphones.
This song was sent to me by a friend who died a few years back much too young. Violet would occasionally suggest songs to me that she thought I would like and ask if I might learn to play them. The first Weepies song she sent me was “The World Spins Madly On,” which she gave me, I think, for safekeeping. It had been one of her favorites but now it reminded her of someone she was trying to forget. And I learned it and play it, but, at her request, not for her, although she sometimes asked to hear things. “Can’t Go Back Now” was the second, and I never took to it as much as the first. But I kept it on my iPod because she gave it to me a couple of weeks before she died and it makes me think of her when I hear it. Hearing the song this afternoon felt like a haunting, like a message I needed to hear. When I started crying in the middle of Fifth Avenue, I wasn’t entirely sure why — it seemed like a purely physical response, turned on by a musical switch. But I think it was for both of them. And I was grateful for my sunglasses.
There are so many lists. Things to bring. Things to do. People to call. Meetings to cancel. Our whole lives are revolving around this now, so it’s odd to be out in the streets where people are oblivious to the center of our universe. It’s why Auden’s “Funeral Blues” always hits home. When somebody you love dies, you want to everyone to notice that the world is now a different place.
For those closest to her, though, the worst is, I think, over, and they are coming out on the other side, now concentrating on plans and arrangements and learning to readjust their rhythms. We are grateful for rules and the people who follow them. We seize the templates that we’ve heard all our lives as if they are liferafts — I’m sorry for your loss, She was a lovely woman, It’s so lucky her children were with her at the end — and learn that while they’ve always felt like empty words when we’ve said them, they are anything but. They are a lifeline, a comfort, a pattern that holds us up as we nod and say “thank you” and mean it with our whole hearts.