There’s no ghosts in the graveyard
That’s not where they live
They float in between us
‘what is’ and ‘what if’
And cast our own shadows
Before our own eyes
You don’t get them up here though
They don’t come up high
Joy to the city
The parking lot lights
The lion of evening
With the rain in its eyes
Joy to the freeway
Joy to the cars
And joy to you baby, wherever you are
Tonight, tonight, tonight
– Josh Ritter
i have a sweater that was my brother’s, folded away on a closet shelf. sometimes i almost feel it, like it has a heartbeat. sometimes, it is all i see when i go to get dressed. my mom brought it to me last christmas. i gave it to him eleven years before, he was twenty two, i was twenty four, i spent more than we ever did on gifts. but it was so soft and the blues woven in matched the many seas in his eyes. he was wearing it the last time i hugged him, the last time we said goodbye and ‘i love you’, rushed and quick in a way i would move the world to change. i have slipped on the sweater twice, both times it was too much. it was like slipping on a wave of him. memories are pictures that swim through us.
we fold it in, the absence, like air, like flour into bread. the loss is everywhere. it is everything contained in nothing, the landscape of forever. love and longing and details and days falling through the air with nothing to stop them. but we have to weave his story into ours now. we have to keep looking for him, finding him, making him present. we have to live for him by living with him. there is no choice. we must do the living. the grateful dead and francisco tarrega through their ears in the car, talking about justice in ways that a nine and two year old can understand, about goodness and life and death, reading all of the articles that take time and thought, that i know he would send, telling them stories about all of the characters he invented, making us laugh until it hurt. i see him in their movement, in their joy, their quiet, their wanderings. i hear him in their questions and imaginations. i see what i feel when i stop their precious time. i take it as a direct line to him, a gift, a legacy. i am seeing for two now, watching the movies of us as children line up as still frames against my own babies’ days. meaning is infused as longing for what we have right now. a contentment laced with an ache. the memories on our skin will not last, but the love will dance off into time, an echo of itself, a thing of grace.
there is a line slashed through my life with a dull, heavy blade. before and after p. a scar that opens again and again. we are all unraveling and weaving our lines, stitching back together, making new fabric, all of us. the colors change so fast, sometimes they are hidden, but always there. there is no language for this, but there is a soundtrack to our loss. the same songs we live to. it is every song we ever loved, joining in a crescendo, as we lift up our voices.
what would this time be without a camera? there would be strings of words and nests of memory, formed and tended to with care, with pause, with any scraps we can collect. but to see life, to hold it before you, in your hand, like a garment in which love took place, it is sublime proof of how we live. loss is transformative, it rearranges the very cells of us. it gets us to see with our hearts. it drives us to make a truth we can feel in our hands. driving to school last week, we listened to gershwin’s ‘lullaby’, deep from the soul of new york city every time i hear it. i asked my daughter, “what do you hear? what do you see when you listen?” she replied “rooftops and yellow lights in windows. children going to sleep. but not the city. it never sleeps.” now tell me we cannot know the essence of a thing from all the magic around it. she made a picture. she brought something to life from the feeling it gave her. he would love that. i am trying to do it for him too.