It poured on Saturday.
The sky opened up and dumped down in long slow strokes, before it sped up and cracked onto the sidewalk its big fat dirty teardrops of rain.
Of course it felt fitting being that it was the memorial for my dear friend Steve Bridges. Of course that felt fitting.
I woke up to a tapping on my ceiling and half-asleep I had thought someone was knocking. The grey sky depressed me which seemed a bit impossible being that I was already depressed in the way Old Jen would have been, ( how I think of the earlier, more screwed up version of me) rather than the new yoga-teacher version of myself ( I write with a wry wink and a tongue in the cheek).
I looked out the window and realized that nobody was knocking but the sky whispered I should crawl back in bed and forget whatever it was I had to do, whatever it was I said I’d be. Including teaching yoga. Including a memorial.
I taught my two classes, of course.
I went to the memorial, of course.
My body was aching tremendously. It was like I had taken this last loss of Steve, and every other loss I have ever suffered and stuck them inside my muscles and shouted “Go!”
I sat in the front.
Not by choice. Because my hearing has been worse than normal lately and I was afraid I would miss a word, a story, an intonation.
I still missed quite a bit but I heard enough.
It was the most beautiful memorial I had ever been to.
In fact, for someone who has suffered so much loss, it was only the second one I have ever been to. The first was my stepfather (my mother’s second husband) who died when I was 18, one week shy of graduating high school. We flew to California from Jersey and I sat on the beach in a long flowered skirt in my 91 pound body and threw a rose into the ocean for him as I wept like I couldn’t for my own dad ten years prior.
Grief unearthed is as inevitable as air.
I sat there last Saturday, in my aching body filled with screaming people trying to come out, and, as I wiggled to try and quiet them up, I started to drift to past lives.
My own past lives.
Like my father’s past life.
He passed in 1983.
I watched and listened to these gorgeous faces as they openly broke their hearts for us on a podium with stories of Steve’s humanity, his humor, his humility. His kindness. (And boy was he kind!)
And, as it went, I drifted to 1983. I was at my father’s memorial.
He was the funniest man anyone had ever met and the stories they told! Oh, the stories they told!
Only I hadn’t been there.
My sister and I were not at my father’s memorial or funeral because my mother had thought it was the best thing to do at the time.
Who knows, maybe it was?
If I was 34, and my husband, who I was just about to divorce, dropped dead and left me with two small girls, I would probably think moving to Fiji and selling my kids down the river would be a good idea. Who knows?
Grief is mean and calculating and tricky and gossipy and ugly and stupid.
So, during Steve’s memorial, in the moments when my beloved hearing loss got the best of me and all I saw were moving mouths, I simply went back to 1983 and sat in and listened to them talk about my dad.
I realized how important this ritual is.
I walked up to his larger-than-life photo on the stage, propped next to a surfboard and a Dallas Cowboys jersey (he loved both equally) and I said Goodbye Steve. I loved you. I love you friend.
Do I blame my mom for the fact that I did not get to do that with my dad?
It has simply reminded me of why I love connecting with people. Why I love doing what I do.
I have no problem connecting with my father.
Am I insane? No.
Am I hippy-dippy? Actually, no and I wish I was a little more so.
I realize that my father, and my beloved soul brother Steve, for the brief time they were both in my life, taught me how to be human. They taught me: what it means to connect to someone. To reach over and touch someone’s forearm, to look into their eyes and laugh so hard that I think my insides my fall out of me if I don’t grip my stomach and pray, to be made so alive by their presence that I wonder if I have made them up.
Maybe I have made parts of them up?
Maybe that’s what we do to people to make them fit.
I can make up as much as I want now that they are both gone.
In fact I will.
I am making up that I was at my dad’s memorial and all the stories people told made me laugh so hard I cried, like at Steve’s. And that Steve and my dad are writing comedy sketches up there and when I get there I will have a part in one, maybe two of them.
I didn’t get to say goodbye to my dad Mel at his memorial but I know that other people did. I was there this weekend for Steve and other people who loved him could not make it, so this is for them:
It is ok.
They forgive you and love you.
And it doesn’t matter.
Close your eyes and connect.
They are right here.
Wow. Wow. Wow.
Beautiful. I’m crying. Good tears though.. tears that probably need to come out. because “grief unearthed is as inevitable as air”
I love you Jennifer P. Beautiful. So beautiful.
“I realize that my father, and my beloved soul brother Steve, for the brief time they were both in my life, taught me how to be human. They taught me: what it means to connect to someone.”
Thank you Lizzy. I know how near and dear this subject is to your own sweet heart too.
Beautiful Jen. Brought up a lot of feelings for me too. I am happy that you were there for Steve and that you were able to feel and cry. He knows you loved him as your father did. It is hard to say why we do things, at the time if they were right decisions or not. Why thinking how two little girls 5 and 8 would feel seeing the father they loved so much in an open casket, how would they handle that, so you make the best decision you know how to make at the
time . Right or wrong who knows. We only have the experience that we have from that time to know from. But whatever that was made you and your sister….who you both are today….two women I am very proud of. I am sure your Dad and Steve would agree. Love you both
made me cry. I almost didn’t write with worry you would feel bad. Thank you xx
Thank you, that was beautiful.
Amazingly beautiful, honest, soulful and heartbreaking. love
Beautiful! Tears of joy, sadness, life. I love the comment from your mom and your response. So happy to have this connection.
This is so beautiful. I have little words for how this connected with my after reading it. It made me miss Steve more and my own mother insanely. Jen you are magic and sent from heaven, I know it! My mother was angel and so is Steve. Now, she will laugh forever because the funniest person I had ever met just joined her! I love you JP!
You are so lucky to have such an honest relationship with your mom. You are both so brave.
For what its worth, I don’t think your Dad and Steve have left for good. They both are probably beside you right now cheering you on and high fiving each other at how amazing you are and happy that you chose them to be a big part of your life.
Big Love and Light.
I totally understand what you mean by living to feel because you never know what tomorrow brings and if something is there in your presence that you can connect to, then connect! Steve seemed like someone to cherish. I’m sure we all have a ‘Steve’ that we should be grateful for while they are with us.
You are a gifted writer.
Ok first of all let me pick up my heart from the floor before I start writing this comment. Let me wipe the tears away from my face and collect myself.
Obviously I am your sister so I share your experiences with you, you alone know my pain better than anybody.
When you wrote about Carl I was instantly taken back to that day. Me also wearing a flowered matching skirt and shirt, and unable to pick my head up out of my hands because I was crying so hard.
Everytime somebody I love passes away it is like daddy dying all over again. It is that same stabbing feeling that I experience when thinking of daddy.
I wish I could have been there to say goodbye to Steve, who was in my life for the shortest of times, but impacted it greatly.
My memories of him are amazing. He made me laugh and smile more than I thought was possible that week in Mexico. I am so grateful for him.
I was glad that you were there to say goodbye for me.
Your words are beautiful and bring up so much for me. Thank you for writing.
I love you so much.
So glad this came up on my Timeline as a memory on Facebook. Glad I got to read it again. Means more not that you are having your first baby. Love Mom to your and Rachel.