when i was in college my brother gave me books for my birthday. i always loved this because books are funny gifts -- deeply personal gifts disguised as ink and paper: they're long letters from the sender to the recipient, coded with all kinds of secret hidden messages, depending on which pages you read when you're tired or which ones you don't. or at least, that's how i give books, and what's more, that's exactly how i receive them.
so i think it was maybe right before or right after i studied in italy for a while: impressionable and eager and anything but capable of handling real life. (as an aside, i always think of the thing my dad used to say with a knowing smile, which is that "you're never smarter than the day you graduate high school." fill that in with any life event, and there i am.) anyway. my brother gave me a book called "a heartbreaking work of staggering genius" by dave eggers.
i opened the book and i read six lines. and i cried:
it is hard to write when things feel heavy, even though that's the best way i know to make them feel lighter. there are moments that my life feels tangled and complicated, even though it's not. it feels strange to be celebrating the new year -- a time when i am traditionally full of energy and resolution -- i'm not yet peaceful with how this last one ended. despite this, i am filled with deep gratitude for the people around me.
i lost someone last month.
the first time we met, it was in a class called "natural disasters" -- and so we would eventually learn, our future was already determined. in spite of it all, we spent a lot of time together, much of it having fun. one of the greatest lessons i learned from him was how to be a friend despite distance or circumstance or life happening to one or both of you, he could be counted on by everyone he knew for a warm welcome and an invitation to stay.
when i walked through those heavy funeral home doors and saw ornaments hanging from a christmas tree, i was reminded that the day before, his mother left her home with her own christmas tree and spied a handmade ornament from his childhood dangling from a branch. she tucked it in her purse to bring with her to her son's funeral. that thought made me break.
this holiday season, i was determined to give every hug there was to give. to give as much love into the world as there was to give. to welcome, to smile, to care, to listen. to go, to do, to be together for better or for worse. to let you know i was thinking of you. i ate homemade chili and chex mix. i went to church at midnight with my mother in law. i shared lots of hugs with my husband. we surprised my parents. laughter was a rally cry and wine was a healer, and the days passed softly and sweetly surrounded with family and friends.
there were quiet moments and in those moments i was so grateful to my husband who allowed me to grieve. if i put the grief behind me, it would be gone. i wanted to spend some time with the sadness i felt. i will be forever grateful to him for this.
i don't know when or if any of this will make any sense to me. left without reason and answers, we turn to each other and to our memories. the best ones.