life is huge

So, yesterday would have been my late husband’s 62nd birthday. Isn’t that strange? Also strange: Chris died at 55, and here I am, facing that double-nickel number in September. I remember the surrealism of turning 32 four years after my sister Lucy died at 31. It felt like a breach in the space-time continuum: This things are not supposed to happen. We are not supposed to be older than our older sisters. We are not supposed to lose the people we love, bury them, mourn them and miss them, yet keep on living and growing and laughing and loving and sprouting fresh-baked wrinkles on our faces, all while our absent dear ones remain fixed at the age they died. 

Except we are. Of course we are. How else are life and death supposed to function? When I had my first colonoscopy at age 50, I worked hard to celebrate it as a marker Lucy never reached. As positive spin goes, this was a stretch, I know. But I’m here. She’s not. And when I live with gratitude, I feel hers, too.

Last night, as I often do these days, I made music with friends: joyous, upbeat, swinging, infectious gypsy jazz. I’d spent the day engaged in the tasks at hand, working, chatting, laughing, always with Chris on my mind. I kept snatching glimpses at his photos, marveling at his handsome and impish mug, trying to picture him six years on. I kept wondering what he might think of me now — a little older, my hair a little whiter and longer, my language a little more profane. I kept thanking God and Chris for our 20 years of  marriage and the three astonishing children we brought into the world. I kept dwelling on all of his gifts — his constancy, decency, intellect, compassion, his deep and unswerving well of love. And I kept thinking, well, what if he’d never been born? Impossible to imagine.

And then, sawing away at my violin with my buddies, I pictured him there. Listen to this awesome music, I told him. Look at these awesome friends of mine. I’d become obsessed with jazz after his suicide. Took up lessons. Started playing gypsy swing two years ago. All of this happened without him. None of it might have happened had he not died, a head-exploding conundrum I won’t ever unpack, but it’s true. And as I made music last night, the joy of the moment and the memory of Chris twined into one continuous, light-dark, life-death, love-loss, yin-yang cause for gratitude. I was living, and he was gone, but that didn’t make the present any less miraculous. To the contrary: more so.

At the end of the night, as I loosened my bow and packed up my fiddle, I felt at peace. And I thought: Life is huge. Happy Birthday, honey.


20 thoughts on “life is huge

  1. We carry the joy in our heart for those we wish were here to share it with us. And we make the journey as wonderful and as meaningful as those who we wish were still dancing and celebrating with us.

    Raise a glass for those in memory and in spirit.

  2. Your brilliant Chris, whom I barely knew, but who planted a seed of confidence in me about my writing, a seed that continues to bear fruit. I can never thank him enough. May his memory forever be a blessing, may your joy, however tinged with sorrow, continue to rise up and fly about the room, like notes from your fiddle. Chris is in every chord.

    Peace to you.

  3. I remember very well turning 51 1/2, the age my husband was when he passed away from a massive stroke. I am now approaching 53 1/2 and life continues to move forward whether I want to or not.

  4. Beautiful, Amy. It helps all of us on this human journey when anyone shares about loss so lovingly and openly. I believe that Chris was dancing with you!

  5. Lovely and thoughtful. Your losses have redefined your life and touched mine. Your gypsy soul has been made manifest through terrible pain. Keep on playing and writing.

  6. I’m glad I took a few moments to read your post. It reminded me of how unsteady I felt turning 34, an age my father never lived to see.
    I’m also glad Chris came up during our talk at the Writers Institute last week. His words and advice still resonate with me.

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