She said “I like to think that the love we make never really disappears”. Yes. That.
I answered, “sounding woo woo here.. I don’t think it does”.
She talked about the love as energy sent out into the world and you know how you just know that things are true?
I thought about this a lot, after I had had my last pregnancy and there wouldn’t be any more. When I understood I would never have children I thought about it. When my father died and my ex-husband and I were going through his accumulated stuff and deciding what to keep and what to shed, and when we’d packed our precious cargo of the things I’d keep from my dad, I had thought over and over about that the things I was saving, the things that were so precious to me and what would happen to them when I died. I felt like I was preserving something of my dad and that I couldn’t do it well enough. Some day someone will go through my things too. My paintings and my fathers will get thrown away. My half-finished or miraculously-someday-completed novel and the pictures of everyone I love, my precious books and my short stories and my motorcycle jacket will all be trash someone has to deal with.
match and a pile of ashes
I stood in my father’s stuff, flooded with memories and smiling and crying over the little pieces of my dad, and wishing vehemently that there was more.. more of his writings and arts and pictures and life. I was there as a witness to his life and there after his death. But, thinking about it, those treasures will be short-lived and my memories of my father have no one for me to pass them to. His rodeo spurs and his black belt, his NASA patches and schematics, his slides and drum and all the little precious things of his I own are going in that same landfill with my stuff. I imagine the puzzled face of whoever finds those old old spurs among my belongings. The rusty junky things won’t make sense. They won’t have the faintest clue of the adventurer who raised me and will die with me. It was more than realizing my own mortality. It was realizing that very very soon (in the greater scheme of things) it would be like my father never existed and everything he was would be forever gone.
But… that isn’t really true, is it? Our belongings will be ashes and our names and memories and every single individual thing about us will be nothing in very short time. How many of us even know the names of our great grandparents, much less treasure something about them?
But we are in there.. in the people we touch and the things we create and the love we make and stuff we teach. They won’t know our names, like we don’t know those who came before, but they are in us none-the-less.
My friend quoted the line, “That the rich play of life goes on and you may contribute a verse”. Yes.
Here is a simple example: watching my stepdaughter shoot pool. An old drunk I killed time with before AA meetings taught me to shoot pool, and I’ve spent years shooting pool (badly) and it’s a passion I taught my daughter. Her little hands were too small to make a proper bridge and I showed her a way to do it, to slide the cue on the knuckles of her fist resting on the table’s felt, and I made swooping noises as I moved the cue. Years later, in Michigan where I visited her, after a play she was in, I stood back and watched her teaching a friend to shoot pool at the after-party. She showed the girl how to make a bridge of her fist, and she has no memory that those swooping noises are mine. It’s just a thing she knows. And that’s a tiny thing.
I think of the hundreds of women I worked with in AA, and the friends I’ve held, and people I’ve taught to shoot or ride horses or boogie board. I think about how all of my kids (step and foster) love art and books and I know that was me in there. We read together and I read around them and we spent a lot of time in the company of books at libraries and on vacation. I was the reader in their lives and I infected them. My daughter the photographer and my daughter the one-day-chef, and my daughter who reads on the beach in Hawaii exist, and I am in there. I think of my beautiful friends and the effect I’ve had on their lives. I think of the people I have dated and kissed and touched and loved and heard. I think of struggling musicians I supported and people to whom I’ve been kind. I think about the volunteering and the listening and the caring and the times I helped people not take their lives. I think of my lovers and what we made, and my husband that I know carries me with him as I carry him with me, even if our marriage is over. And I think of the vast array of riches I will already leave this world.
I carry everyone that’s ever loved me with me too. My friend’s family that took me in when I no longer had a home, so I could finish high-school, has always been here with me. My best friend and the hours and hours and hours he spent loving every terrible thing about me until I could love myself is there. Every person who’s listened to me and given me hope and put up with me and taught me a little more about love is there. All the Thai food lunches and paper mache and nicknames and hugs and dancing are in there. The house music and the old drunks shooting pool and burly bikers riding motorcycles are in there. The stories I read and the art I loved are in there.. and they’re in every single thing I’ve touched too. The love that we give doesn’t die. It goes on and on and on and on in all these practical little ways.
And one day they’ll throw everything I ever loved in a landfill, and I won’t have a single heir.. and I will go on and on and on and on… and so will you.
You’re not alone.
My friend said it to me and I’m saying it to you and passing that on too. Family is where we make it. The blood line of my father dies with me.. but I think the connections we make and the love we build is as real and as lasting (more lasting in fact) a monument to life as anything. Think about it. The acts of kindness you do -the love you give -the way it affects those around you, helps people grow and heals… that will go on in real and tangible ways.
All the people I’ve loved and kissed and held, and all the ways I’ve affected those around me, and they affected others who affected others too is spreading, you know?
And you are not alone either.
I love that quote from my friend from her poem, “and you can contribute a verse”.