This Christmas, as usual, my kids and I joined Chris’s family for a day of eating and laughing followed by yet more eating and yet more laughing, with breaks in between for energetic gift-giving and weak passes at digestion. While he was alive, I considered them the best in-laws anyone could ask for: caring, attentive, generous, never intrusive, always warm. After he died, they conveyed to me, in gestures and words, that my husband’s death was not an end to my bond with his family. In the midst of all that hurt, I was profoundly grateful to realize that I hadn’t lost them, too.
My universe can’t shrink any more than it has to. I want it to expand. And strangely, despite all the losses, it continues to. This is how it functions. This is its inclination, flinging outward from a central moment — the Big Bang, or the moment of creation, or whatever you want to call the giant cosmic spewing that kicked it (and us) into gear.
I happen to believe that a Someone set it off, but even if I didn’t, I’d still take comfort in the knowledge that, no matter what interplanetary flotsam we encounter, we’re forever moving forward. Even when our lives contract so grievously after a loss, they’re still expanding. Even when we seem to have derailed entirely, skidding off toward some forbidding landscape, we’re still going somewhere. Old relationships deepen and change. New friendships form. New family arrives in unexpected and miraculous ways.
It was Chris who remarked, “Amy, for someone whose family is dead, you have a lot of relatives.” He made this remark about 15 years ago, but I’ve recalled it often these past two, whenever I found myself in the welcoming embrace of his siblings, their spouses, their sons. Soon we’ll be seeing my extended and splendiferous non-blood family, the loved ones I acquired as a kid. How my universe expanded when I met them. How it expanded again when I married Chris.
And now, two of his nephews — my nephews — are getting married. I would say their fiancees are about to become members of the family, but they already are. They’re already eating and laughing and gift-giving. It was some of their food I went on to digest last night; if baked s’more cookies and lemon bars can’t seal the deal, nothing will. As the universe expands, so does my stomach.