By Lori Welch Brown
A Colorful Life
A friend of mine passed unexpectedly a couple of months ago. It was a shock, but he had endured many years of suffering and pain. I’m 51 so it wasn’t my first encounter with grief, but it reminded me that you can never really prepare yourself for death and the many different colors of grieving. His wife is one of my closest friends, and I won him in the deal. We were about as different as two people could be and still like each other. He was a math/science guy. I’m an English/arts girl. He was into cars and sophisticated engines. I’m into Uber and paint by numbers. His jam was algorithms and analytics. My jam is the Style section and Sunday mornings. He worshipped technology. I curse it. Daily. He could remember details from an event 30 years ago (of course, I think he may have expanded upon a few details). I can’t remember what I had for lunch. I remember sitting outside a coffee shop with him waiting for my friend/his wife. He was explaining how telescopes work and was really digging into the minutia. I’m not a minutia kinda girl. About six minutes in (which felt, btw, like 82 hours), he looked at me and said, “Your eyes are glazing over.” We got each other. We were yin and yang, but what he was to me isn’t as important as what he meant to me, to the friends he left behind, and more importantly, to his wife.
She was one of the first ones of our group to get hitched so he became the guy who would willingly tag along to our various hen parties (aka wine nights). I cannot begin to count the number of times he sat with us as one of us recanted the latest boyfriend dating debacle—of which there was no shortage. He would decode and demystify the male counterpoint and tell us mostly what we didn’t want to hear—which of course would be spot on. “He isn’t that into you. He’s no good. Move on.” At one point, I think he even offered to create a program to chart someone’s dating patterns, analyze it, and create a critical path. True story. In his mind, the key to finding Mr. Right would be in a successful project management strategy. He walked festivals with us, waited patiently as we shopped, and tried his best to get us to be interested in exhaust systems and megabytes. It didn’t work, but what I wouldn’t give to hear him explain aerospace engineering or molecular gnomes again. Is that even a thing?
A few days after his passing, I felt as if I had been hit by lightning—scorched and hollow. I thought if grief were a color, it would be red. Not rose red, but fire engine red. Those initial days felt hot and visceral. Hurtful and searing. The heat of grief. My heart, throat and tear ducts were inflamed. If I stepped down into a tub of water surely steam would rise off my body. Days passed, the red cooled down and morphed into grayness. Life was moving forward, but joy was hard to find. Days were filled with the busyness of errands and checklists. This is where routine and to do lists are a Godsend. Get up. Drink coffee. Go to gym. Pay water bill. Call caterer. All I could think of was my friend and her routine. Everything would be different now. In the interim, she slid into a new normal of filling out paperwork, notifying friends and making arrangements. My heart hurt for the loss of her routine and her old normal.
It has been 12 years since my mom passed. That grief is now blue. It is peaceful, solemn and around me like a blanket at all times. It is the serene blue of longing and remembrance. It is the aqua blue of the most beautiful body of water. It is flowing, shifting, and reflecting. It runs deep and it carries me always. I don’t recall when the shift from gray to blue happened, but I guess that’s different for everyone. Time passes and the gray slips into the abyss. Flowers begin to bloom. Skies illuminate. Smiles brighten. New routines spring forth.
When people talk about good, stand-up guys, my friend was one of the best. He adored his wife, and looked after her every need for the better of 20 years. They traveled the world together and had plans to do more. She is unsure of her tomorrow, but she is practicing living in the present. I said to her, “you’ll get through this one day at a time,” to which she replied “more like one moment at a time.” A moment in time is good. We should all heed that advice. We have cried a lot together in the past weeks, but we have also shared stories and laughter. I’ve said a lot of meaningless, cliche things. Hang in there. He would want you to be happy. Life isn’t fair. Don’t make any big decisions. Remember to eat. They are just words, but they are spoken with heart in the color that is love.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms—fur baby mommies too. And to the dads who are playing dual roles! And a special hug to those whose moms are in a special place in our hearts.
As always, hug the ones you’re with and resolve your issues with the others. Tomorrow is a magical, mystical concept…