It's hard to believe it's been 2 months since you left us. I say "left us" because that's truly what it feels like. It's pretty easy to imagine you're somewhere on an extended vacation (ha!), and might be home any day. When I'm at home - your home with mom - it often feels as though you might be just outside feeding the chickens or weeding in the garden. It's still surreal and unfathomable that you're just not here anymore. I mean, I can't really wrap my mind around what that actually means.
I've felt this overwhelming need to talk to you the last few days. It's the first time since you left that I've really taken the time to just miss you. To accept what it's going to be like with you not here. I've tried really hard to forget those last few weeks, to put the final tumultuous 6 months of your life out of my mind, to celebrate all the good things about your 60 years and my 28 as your daughter. But I'm not forgetting you. I think about you everyday. Yesterday as I was "carrying" my suitcase down the stairs I let it bang on each step. I knew you hated the abuse to your pretty floors, and I was really hoping I'd hear you shout at me to "pick the bag up!" Of course, you didn't. It felt kinda good to be rebellious, but it's not nearly as satisfying as when there's someone to rebel against.
We made thanksgiving dinner and sat around your beautiful table on Thursday. Our first holiday without a patriarch. Again, it was just plain weird - like we sat down to dinner before you were home from work or in from the evening chores. I've realized over the last two months how much you both blended into the landscape and demanded a significant presence all at the same time. You were always "there" with your commentary and lecturing, even when we pretended to ignore or overlook it. Tim sat at the head of the table, and Samson at the other end in his booster seat. It was hard not to see you there, in your normal place. I knew you would have had nice things to say about the food, and I realized for the first time how much pleasure that always gave me when you appreciated something I made. Probably because I know you have high standards, but mostly because, no matter how often we disagreed, I really do like to please you and make you proud.
We celebrated you one week ago today. Last Sunday we gathered all our family, your closest friends, and loyal customers, and we tried to pay tribute to your life. In some ways, it was a very happy occasion. It was so good to be hugged and held and reminded of what you meant to everyone. People came from all over. Your cousins you hadn't seen since God knows when. Old family friends who had fallen out of touch. Nieces, nephews, basketball alumni, neighbors, people I'd never met. At one point there was a line of people to sign in at the guestbook backed up all the way down the stairs of the pavilion. People waiting, in the cold, to leave you a message and pay their respects. You never would have believed you were "that cool" to draw such a crowd. In the bitter wind and freezing temperatures it was warming to stand on that stage and look out at a sea of people, all crammed in together, all there for you.
Tim served the homebrew - the same recipes you two made for our wedding. He labeled your milk stout "St. Christopher." Margaret sang with the awesome jazz quartet. Susanna put together a slideshow that gave us a moving and hilarious visual timeline of your life. People enjoyed Virginia's tamales, bratwurst that Uncle David grilled, and a mediterranean buffet put together by my friends the 2Tarts. Susan whipped up some pretty native flowers. Lisa, Mike, and Chuck all spoke about you. And I guess I orchestrated things... big surprise, huh? I know. I'm a Bossypants, like you. We all came together as a family to honor you (with only a little bit of drama and flaring of tempers). I'm just sad I never got to do this for you while you were still here, knowing how much you would have appreciated the chance to see all those people. I have to believe that you still experienced it, though, just in a way that is beyond my earthly understanding right now. It was a beautiful and amazing event, and I will never forget it.
I'm looking for you everywhere. I'm listening in my heart for your words of wisdom. I promise I'll write when I feel the need to talk. Maybe we can have the conversations we were never really able to have together in this life. Maybe we'll agree more now that the conversation is somewhat one-sided. :) Maybe you'll let me get the last words in...
I love you, always and forever.