(c) Steve Clarke

 

When we lose someone we love, pain and sadness seem to collide in the days that come after. Inside jokes that were once ours fade into a memory as we are now the champions to hold them tightly and not let go. We are at a war of preservation- to keep the sacred with us always through an unseen thread of insatiable want. We bare our souls, we put on our armor and we protect the only things left with determined strength. This picture from a dear friend,  was taken earlier today after he had started putting the pieces of daily life back together after his wife’s tragic passing. He wrote so eloquently,

“She had a favorite pastry from our local bakery. I would sometimes make a special trip to get one for her.  When I arrive to set up and play with the band, they are typically out of them. This past Saturday, knowing how much she liked them and how much I liked being able to bring one home, they set one aside in its own little box. She never got to have this last one so I took a picture.”

I couldn’t get over the rituals of our daily lives and how a disruption- something as simple as a pastry can bring me to tears. In this box, sits the best of intentions and love from a friend to someone who will always share his heart. He couldn’t bear to eat what the white memorial held, so he placed it- intact on the porch to reflect and acknowledge the end of a ritual and a life. I couldn’t help but sit for a while and stare at the picture.

You see, I had been wrong. Our legacy is truly not what we, ourselves leave behind. Anything tangible will soon rot or fade away. The things that matter are what others carry forward. The memories of who we are are merely perceptions of other’s experiences with us. I always thought I needed to leave something tangible: a known truth I had come to find, or a piece of myself. The truth is, by simply being the best of who we are, we leave the greatest legacy possible.

My friend carries his beautiful wife forward through love and compassion for her legacy. This white box could hold just about anything, whether diamonds, a three-million-dollar check or a black and white photo of times gone by. I’m not sure anything could be more powerful or bittersweet, than an untasted bite of a favorite dish, an unheard note of a sacred song or the missed feeling of a hand that holds yours without anything but love. Surely nothing could be sweeter or sadder than an uneaten pastry.

There will always be the regret that we didn’t have more time. I can’t find anything more touching than creating rituals and traditions in our daily lives to celebrate the love we feel for those around us. My friend’s wife is gone and I am a myriad of emotions because of the sudden loss. Most of all, I’m touched at his gift to her- a legacy that he wasn’t afraid to share or photograph. His reminder that our days are never promised and that we will leave our favorite things behind, reminded me of the crux of humanity- tragically, someday- it ends.

He picked out three songs for her. He’ll play tomorrow when he sees her incomparable face for the last time, (though I’m sure every mark, the curves of her cheeks and beautiful smile are ingrained in his memory for eternity.) He had never thought that she couldn’t hear him, because you see- that’s who this man is. As the notes from his saxophone rise and fall, the symbolic ritual will carry him forward.

I ache for the day when he passes the bakery and so wants to bring something home, see her sweet face and have one more moment. I hope he  knows, that the courage to play these songs inspires those around him. Those simple melodies will reach higher than he could imagine in our three-dimensional lives. She’ll dance in heaven, my friend. Of that, I’m sure.

“I know I was born and I know that I’ll die; the in between is mine. I am mine.”  - Pearl Jam