Today is my friend Michelle’s birthday. She would have been 49.
Six months before she died I wrote a eulogy for my mom. It took me weeks. In the end, I felt like I’d done it right.
A couple months later, I didn’t write — or even say anything — for my ex-father-in-law. I regretted that after his service. My experience of him was so different from those who spoke that I wished I had shared something about who he was to me, how supported and respected he made me feel. I made some decidedly alternative decisions about how I wanted to parent and of all the people around me, Malcolm — who mostly got described as curmudgeonly by the people who did speak! — was the most willing to change his own mind, not just allow me to be the parent I wanted to be, but to make me feel like he trusted my judgement.
So of course for Michelle I was determined to do it right. I couldn’t. I spoke — probably about three sentences. I said, I think, that she was the only person I’ve ever known who I felt saw me for exactly who I am, truly understood me, and loved me for it. That was all I could do.
And I’ve kept thinking that someday, someday, I would go back and write about her. Describe her. Who she was, how she was, what made her so special. Her creativity, her imagination, her acceptance, her grace. Write something that expressed how much I love her, how much she changed my life, how desperately I miss her. How wrong it is that the world doesn’t have her in it anymore and how even more wrong it is that so much of her life was stolen from her by her illnesses. I want to remember her wonder as we explored Europe together, her pleasure at lying in a flowery field in the sunshine in Greece, our shared amusement at the vagaries of travel, and I want to forget her despair and depression and the slow eroding of her abilities as the tumor ate her brain. And I suppose in some way I’m doing that right now, but it’s not good enough. It’s never good enough.
Someday I’ll find the words.
Today though, I’m going to stop crying and get something useful done. I’m going to write some Grace and do some laundry and keep getting ready for a garage sale (so much work!) and I’m going to appreciate the sunshine if I get a chance to, which I hope I will.
And meanwhile… Happy Birthday, Michelle.