“Love always triumphs over what we call death. That's why there's no need to grieve for our loved ones, because they continue to be loved and remain by our side.” -- Paulo Coehlo
We celebrated Mr. Jones this past Saturday. Friends, family, and colleagues joined us at the beach to hug, cry, and catch up. Some people had never met, but we all had Larry in common.
He brought people together from all corners. There were the guys he grew up with... a few people he new from his time as a manager for Pier 1... the guy that first taught him to fly... distant cousins... and, of course, his beautiful children.
There were even some friends that showed up for me to make sure I was okay. Was I okay? Not really. But, I was in Event Coordinator mode, which mostly helped keep the ugly cries at bay. It was hard to hear all the stories, though, and every now and then, I had to turn my head and just let it go. The Larry everyone was talking about was the Larry I loved. I didn't always get to see that Larry toward the end of our life together, but I do remember how sweet that guy was.
After sharing a meal and just before sunset, I gave everyone a large white orchid and we walked down to the water. I asked a few of his friends to share their favorite memories with everyone. I had to laugh... I recognized a few of those stories, as told from the other person in them. Larry loved telling me about his adventures with his friends. It was funny to hear them told by others.
And I am so glad the kids got to hear about the good guy Larry could be. They have some happy memories of times with their dad, but the past few years have been difficult for them... for all of us. it's hard to remember the fun times when you're stuck in the muck of reality. Our hearts needed those stories.
And there were so many great ones. To hear Larry's friends talk about their buddy and the things he did for them... it truly warmed my heart. THAT is the guy I am really going to miss.
When everyone who wanted to speak had a chance to share, we released the orchids out into the water. It was a symbolic letting go, something I think we all needed. I walked a bit further into the water, holding the orchid close to my heart. After a moment, I lifted it to my lips for one final kiss... and then I let it float into the waves.
I felt Larry's presence the whole evening, hanging around the periphery of the gathering. There was a sense of contentment and I could picture his smile... the smile he had when he woke up after a long nap... like he was just happy and comforted. I know he would have loved the way it turned out and would have been so pleased to see all of his friends gathered together for him.
I also felt a sense of completion. Like I had fulfilled my duties to him and he was finally letting me go. We had some good times, but oh boy, did we have some rough times. The last two years, in particular. But I was his wife, and that still meant something to me, even after all of that we'd been through. I owed it to the sweet guy that I fell in love with, and to his amazing friends, to hold a space for them to all come together.
And once it was over, I felt a huge weight lifted from me.
I didn't have the desire to linger or to sit with any sadness at the end. I didn't feel like I had anything more I needed to say or do. All I wanted to say was "thank you" and all I wanted to do was go home and sleep for three days.
Before leaving the beach, I had a thought. Somehow, in our typical, complicated, dysfunctional way, Mr. Jones and I managed to stay married "til death us do part," just like we promised back on that beach in Tahoe seventeen years ago. We stood on the beach, barefoot in the sand when we made that promise.
And there I was, standing on the beach, barefoot in the sand, saying goodbye.