(For respect, I changed the names in this blog)
I found out she had died on Sunday afternoon.
I tried to rearrange the sentence in any other way…like in 4th grade when they say, make as many sentences as you can with these three phrases.
Apples in orchards.
Family in a van.
Milk in a glass bottle.
Or. Take this word, and make as many words as you can from it.
I looked at the photo, her, with her granddaughter, and the big yellow lab at her feet, her, leaning her elbow onto the small table, pinky up, her, having a tea party. All of them. All of them laughing and adoring each other. All of them in summer. All of them around the table.
We took the family van, to go pick apples in an orchard, on the way home, we picked up some milk in a glass bottle.
He dropped the milk in the bottle, right when the family got out of the van, no one at the apple orchard cared, these things happened all the time.
I looked at the picture, and even thought, frantically, maybe they re-named the dog Jane? Maybe the dog had died. Maybe the dog named Walter, was now named Jane, and maybe it was not Jane who had died, but it was the dog named Walter who was recently renamed…maybe.
I struggled with the sentence, and tried to reverse any order in how I read it, so it made more sense.
And I couldn’t see any other word, to make from that word.
She took her own life.
And there is no other way to make sense of that sentence.
She was to me, a woman who had come barreling into my life, with 100 stories I had learned about her, before she hugged me for the first time. She was to me, someone I stood in awe of, at her light, at the way she walked into a room, at the way I couldn’t take my eyes off of her, her bigness, her joy, her not giving a shit…
And she, she could never take her eyes off of him.
The man I loved then, her son.
She loved him so so much.
We had that in common, and so she loved me immediately.
The first night I met her, we made dinner at his house, and she exclaimed again and again how it was the best pizza she had ever had in her life. She knew I was weary of my cooking skills, and I was nervous it wouldn’t be good enough.
She said, pass the wine, this is the best pizza of my life!
On Tuesday, I went up the antique shop, this is the best pizza of my life!
I’m thinking of going to that garden store while I’m here, this is the best pizza of my life!
And then she handed me a tambourine, and said, welcome to the family band! We needed a tambourine player. And she, and I, and the man we both loved, and two of his friends, sat around banging various instruments, until it was time for me to go home.
And she said, I love you. Goodbye. I will see you again tomorrow.
And when I fell asleep that night, I slept in the deep sleep of knowing how loved I was. And how loving him, meant she loved me too, just by association. And how one of the most beautiful things about loving someone, is how right away, you become an extension of all the people who love them too.
The next day, we took her to dinner, and ordered approximately 47 things. I remember what he was wearing that night, the navy blue button down with red-checks he looked so handsome in, and how he’d reach for my hand under the table, and I’d smile at him, and he’d smile at me, and she’d smile at us, and say oh! Hang on!
And then she’d take out an ipad from her giant bag on the floor and take our picture. And then she’d put her ipad back into her bag.
The waiter that night loved her too, because she was that for everyone she met. She said she was coming back the next day with some artichokes he needed to have, and he said okay! And she did. She went back the very next day.
When he walked me to my door that night, and he leaned in to give me a kiss goodnight, I hear her yelling yoohoo, yoohoo out of the car window and waving her arms out the window.
And when we looked back, she was leaning out of the window, sticking her ipad out as far as it could go, trying to take our picture.
Look at him, giving you a kiss goodnight, oooooh he loves you! he loves you so much!
I saw her again, not too long after, when he got his MBA, and walked across the stage. We both agreed that he looked so handsome, and looked for the top of his hat, in that big sea of hats, and when he found us, he looked up and smiled, his big smile, and waved. And she waved back, and yelled his name.
The next time I saw her, she was in town to help get her son all the things he needed for his new home, that she hoped I lived in too, soon. And we did too, we talked about it often, and we were trying to find our way to the same address, it was still pretty new for both of us.
Pick you up at 9am she said.
And off we went. For a whirwind day of buying this rug, this vacuum, and all these things to fill up a home. Before she put anything in the cart, she’d hold it up, and ask me if this is something I’d want in my home. Cause I want to make sure, she said, and smiled, cause this will be yours too. She said, will you remember to water this plant? Because he wont. And I said I would try my hardest.
That afternoon, she finally let me buy her lunch, she wanted a sandwich, and I said, I know just the place. And I remember being worried that she was going to get a ticket or towed, because she had parked her giant truck, with all the new things in the back in a mechanics parking lot. And so, I kept nervously checking to see when the sandwich was coming…
She never worried about things like that.
This is the best sandwich I’ve ever had in my life, she said.
I saw her again less than a year ago, when she invited me to breakfast.
I never moved in with her son, and so, I don’t know if the plants were watered or not. We broke each others hearts, on a Wednesday night in November, the night we were headed out to go run errands together, but ended up instead, sitting on the kitchen floor, saying what needed to be said. When he left that night, he never came back, and neither did I.
A few months ago when she said, would you like to have breakfast with me? I would love to see you, I miss you.
I knew I wanted to say yes, but wanted first to make sure it was okay with him.
He said, absolutely, please do, she would love that.
I saw her siting in a booth when I arrived, and she jumped up, and wrapped her arms around me.
You look as beautiful as ever, she said. And pulled back, with her hands on my shoulders so she could look at me, then she pulled me right back in for another hug. You are so so beautiful.
And then she grabbed my arm and pulled me to the counter to order.
Order anything, she said.
It didn’t take too long to find where we had left each other, even though of course the man we both loved, was not the man I loved in that way, any longer, but he was the man I wondered about often…about how we couldn’t find our way to each other, to water the plants, and read the paper on Sundays.
And though he gave his blessing for our breakfast reunion, she had said to me, oh, he is FURIOUS with me for having breakfast with you…he doesn’t understand our connection, or why we would still see each other.
And at first, I was pissed, cause his message to meet her was more than encouraging, and then, when I was a human about it, instead of an ex-girlfriend about it, I understood. His heart was broken too. And when that is, we are protective of what goes where, and how.
When I left she handed me a gift…4 white linen napkins she had drawn flowers on in the bottom left corner, 4 different types of flowers with their specific names. A bar of lavender soap (lavender is my absolute favorite scent) and a piece of wood, shaped like a dog house, that had Moose’s name on it. Her gifts were always always hand chosen, she would have never given me anything where one thousand other people may have received the same gift too.
I remember in this breakfast she was in the mood to talk about the good ol’ days, what she was like as a girl, what she was like at my age, when she learned to ride a motorcycle, what she loved about life….how this happened, and where she was, and all these stories, filled with lots of color, and lots of laughter, some regret.
When it was time to leave again, she pulled me in and then held my shoulders again and said to me.
You stay wild, okay Lyndsey?
And I said, yes, I would.
Don’t let anyone ever tame you.
And I said, no, I wouldn’t.
And we both laughed, the wild, untamable streak so alive in both of us, the bright light and the ability to move through a room, in both of our bones, the challenge that it is to love someone like this…unspoken and understood.
That was the last thing she ever said to me.
We emailed back and forth a bit…
I looked and she emailed me back last, a few months ago….I didn’t respond.
I guess I got busy.
I guess I got too afraid.
I guess we were too close.
In the beginning of falling in love, you stay up late, and you tell each other stories into the space between your bodies. You would rest on your right hand, and he would rest on his left hand, and you are naked, and tired, but more than that, you are awake in the way that falling in love is awake.
When he would talk about her, it was complicated, and his brow would furrow. And I’d try to make sense of what he was saying, compared to what I knew, and what I had known of my own complicated relationships with my own wild mother.
And when he talked about her, I often felt like I was right up against the glass, looking at him, placing my hands on the cool glass, trying to get to him.
The darkness that ran through their lives as a family, their whole life, and she, at that front of the line, unable to tame it, unable to even name it. And so, it was the nameless darkness, that made it hard for this beautiful man, to say very much at all.
I think he wanted to protect me from how dark it had been.
So I shared my own, and hoped the glass would come down. Or we’d take a goddamn hammer to it. Or someone would break in, in the middle of the night, and force it from both of our hands.
I had my own places where his hands were against the cool glass wondering how he could get in. Folding and unfolding a map in his well worn jeans, what it takes to love me…I know, is that. A map, dog-eared pages in a book, a rock I keep in my pocket but wont say why.
We all have our dark places.
When I read those words on a Sunday, and tried to move them to mean anything else, and they stared back at me.
This tea party.
The dog named Walter.
This beautiful little girl in a dress.
And all the proof in this photo of why it would be reason enough to live bigger than the places that are dark….but she couldn’t.
I wonder what she did on her last day, did she know when she listened to a song for the last time, did she know it was, what was the last thing she ate, what was the last thing she created, did she take the dog for a walk, was it sudden, how….
I walked out my front door when the sentence could mean nothing else than what it was.
And got on my knees in my front yard and started to dig away at all that was dead.
My front yard is filled with rocks and plants and is very California….it’s not a lawn.
And I put a hat on, and I put Moose on the steps, and I cried and I cried, and I got in the dirt, and I put my hands in the dirt, and starting ripping things out that were dead.
And I looked for her in the dirt, and I cried.
And I took things out from the roots, and I pulled them out with such force, that at times, I stumbled backwards.
I put it all in a pile.
And yelled, and I cried, and I buried my hands in the dirt, on a Sunday afternoon, and no one walked by. And my pile, of all that was dead, grew.
And the sadness I felt, came in waves.
And this man we both loved, who would lean in, and I’d lean against the glass trying to understand who she was to him,
I cried and cried for him.
Picturing him, and every angle I could remember, of his face, and back, and his hips, and his hands, and all the ways we tried to love each other.
What if I had loved him more. Loved him harder.
Would it have made any difference.
Was he okay.
The pile on the curb grew. I pulled out as much as I could, until was exhausted. Dead leaves, dead plants, dead.
No other word to make from that word.
I went into the shower and made it as hot as I could, to scrub away all the dirt that was under may nails and all over my body.
I went to yoga at 430, and took the most beautiful class.
At the end of the class, my sweet friend and teacher Corri shared this quote from rolf gates:
We show up, burn brightly, live passionately, hold nothing back, and when the moment is over, when our work is done, we step back and let go.
I thought I had ‘worked it out’ in the garden…and I hadn’t. I sobbed the entire cried the entire half, laid on the ground, shook, my whole body shook. And I was right between two people who love me very much and who I love, so this was okay. I didnt know though…frankly, if I had a right to feel this way about someone who was no longer in my life, who hadnt been for months now.
I pictured her, and the sound of her voice, and the way her hands felt when they pulled me in, and her twinkly eyes, and her rebellious spirit.
And how this is the woman, who loved him so much.
And me too.
And, me too.
I was so scared to go to sleep Sunday night, because I was afraid I would see her…but I was so tired.
I saw her again yesterday, all day, in everything I did.
But again, last night, dreaming…she hadn’t come yet. But I think she will.
When I drove home Sunday night, I saw lights flashing on the corner of my street. And I don’t know how else to say this, but I was certain it was for my house, and I was certain it was cause someone had died, and that there had been a fire.
And I decided, that those lights were for me, that likely, my house had burnt down.
It was the only way I could make sense of her death, was to look for anything else final.
I’m not sure if that makes sense…
I was talking to my friend last night, as I was taking a walk, and she said to me, you know maybe she was your comet.
And I think so, too.
She was a comet that came through the life of everyone she ever met.
The brightest light.
Against the darkest dark.
I got her flowers that I put on my counter yesterday. She always said something living should be in the house, always. I am so grateful for who she was for me, in the short time we were ever a part of each others stories and lives. That she raised a man, who I loved so dearly, who has such a tender heart. I hope she is now at ease….planting life into a garden….planting life.
If you are reading this, and the darkness is something you understand, take a hammer to your glass, please.
Please know, if any part of you wants to live outside of that, you can.
I know, I used to live in such a darker place, I was raised with streaks of that, that would shatter everything around me, and I’d try to pick back up. For so many years, I was just angry. Angry that I had to pick up so much more than felt fair.
A few years ago, I came up for air. Came up through the surface, gasping. Reaching.
I still do.
Some days, I can see the water line, but it takes everything I can to swim to the top, and breathe. And though I still live with the haunt of loneliness that comes, I know the distinction that I am not alone.
This is my path anyway, and we all take our own.
Look for the break where the water meets the air, swim, swim hard.
If you need to be heard…I am here.