Third Anniversary of Your Death- 2/14/21
Today our two daughters and I
will lift our ice cream spoons to you
You loved ice cream since we first met.
As teenagers, we broke our meager banks
to eat the best ice cream that we could find.
Your favorite flavor always?
Mint chocolate chip.
When we were vegans
coconut milk ice cream would do
but frozen dairy delight was still the best.
In later years, now mostly vegetarians,
you discovered the perfect gelato-
sharp creamy mint studded with
a galaxy of tiny chocolate chips.
Three days before you died
you had an unconscious undressed rehearsal
with spiked fever, and labored breathing.
I was telling our next shift helper
how you had emerged from the danger zone.
You said, quite clearly, with humor in your voice,
“Is there an ice cream zone?”
Of course, there was and
one of the last foods you ate.
At your memorial service we served
hundreds of people ice cream and sorbet.
Today we remember your sweet love
your galaxy of human gifts
melting ever deeper into our hearts.
Intermingling grief and nostalgia catch me unawares. The sound of the snowplow outside of my room at Kendal brought tears to my eyes last week. For years and years every winter, you listened to the all-weather radio station eventually spoken by a stilted digital voice. Expertly plowing the driveway, and in some years, the entire dirt road we shared with our neighbors, was a point of pride and hard work. Our therapy clients made it safely to our house, the next day’s freezing rain hit dirt, not compacted snow, and your damp padded jumpsuit hung out to dry over the closet door, revealing the neatly dressed professional beneath ready for very different work after downing a cup of hot coffee.
Maybe it’s the glance at your picture sitting on my night table- the one that our Dutch friend took of you standing on Mt. Blanc when we visited her and her husband for their twenty-fifth anniversary. Your warm eyes look directly into mine. The half-smile is enough to send shivers of physical loss inside my heart. Empathy, clarity, and fiercely loyal dedication to all you encountered shines through the glass frame. Above that, are all of the early photos of our baby grandson who you had not met in this life. I look at his little round face and sparkling eyes, and I cannot help but see you as well. There is surely a through-line there and I don’t mean just DNA.
Other times I am reluctant to use the last of the dental floss that came in a box of a million (OK maybe only 25) that you had ordered before you died. Or sitting on the chairs in my room that once were in your Manhattan office, I wonder, “Was this the client’s chair or yours?” I think maybe I should be able to tell the difference, to feel the hours of loving counsel you gave to so many others besides your family.
You are everywhere- in a song, a meal, a landscape, a breath- in the absolute stillness when I meditate; the tangible empty solidity of creation holds us closer than close.
The poet Hafiz has a line in one of his poems: “Love is simply creation’s greatest joy.”