In the bedroom, where she lay, a row of candles lined the windowsill above her head, and her body, in repose, was framed in flowers of every kind: roses, peonies, foxglove, allium. I gasped when I saw her, grateful to have witnessed this scene of exquisite devotion. She was more beautiful than a Frieda Kahlo painting.
In the yard, in the late afternoon sun, were tables of food, wine, whiskey, beer. Her passing, just that morning, was as present as oxygen, and it seemed as if everyone breathed tentatively, the loss so sharp still, so tender.
Her mother, who, at 94 looked so frail she might blow away, or tip over, held a bouquet of lavender roses on her lap. Her two daughters moved through the crowd like lilies in a breeze, soft, wounded.
Her husband seemed a barely held-together vessel of broken glass, jagged.
Luminaries from the local glass-blowing community were present, as were friends from the many threads of life in which her spirit was entangled.
A man with bagpipes arrived, played Raglan Road, Danny boy, a Celtic jig — oh, so many of us wept when we heard that music, in the way that music has of penetrating every defense. And we were thankful for it — that release.
But before I left, I placed this poem — typed and mounted on card stock — on the kitchen table altar:
Sitting beside her, day after day
painting leaves and stems
on sandblasted vessels
while I babbled on about something,
who knows what, I’ll never remember —
she reminded me that sometimes
just silence is okay. And so we let it sit
between us, a comfortable pause
that came and went unannounced
as each of us settled
into our private reveries.
When we cleared away the palettes,
the sap-green tubes and perylene maroon
to make a space for lunch, most days
she offered a cookie, half a slice
of rhubarb pie, spoonfuls of fragrant soup.
It’s good, isn’t it? She always said.
And my happy mumble, my mouth-full thanks
for what needed no words.
And though her chair is empty now,
her paint-splashed apron
retired to a hook,
it’s in the hushed afternoons
when I’ll hear her, in the quiet
brushstrokes, all that was
not necessary to say,
and yet understood.
Dear friend, we miss you already.