Sunday, April 29, 2012

Second Time Around

This We Have Now

This we have now
is not imagination.

This is not 
grief or joy.

Not a judging state,
or an elation,
or sadness.

Those come and go. 
This is the presence that doesn't.

From Essential Rumi
by Coleman Barks

Dear Amy,
It’s cooler today that it was two years ago.  But the sky is the same clear blue that it was that day.  That day when the world we created stopped spinning and its time disappeared. I could not fathom what would come next. Could come next. Dutifully and with no emotion, Earth continued around the sun and dragged us with her, without you. We’ve swung around a second time and somehow, for some unknowable reason, I awoke this morning and birds were chirping.

Your mom and Donald came over today.  We drank wine, talked, looked at pictures, and talked some more. We filled purple balloons with helium and wrote messages on them and let them fly up into that clear blue sky. It was beautiful. And it was sad. Very sad. We cried and held each other. We came inside and had dinner and drank more wine, looked at more pictures, talked some more then ate. I think you would have enjoyed it.

And the boys – You’d be so proud of your boys. They’ve grown up so much. They really are amazing. We lit candles at church before the service. And the balloons we sent to you were their idea.  And also the messages they wrote on them with Sharpies. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how much they miss you.

Two years. Two years. I can’t believe it’s really been two fucking years. It’s one of those strange “time things,” you know? It both feels like it’s been forever and no time at all. And then there is the simple fact that it’s the second year. And the second year has been different. The first year comes with all this, … , this stuff. It’s the first year, it’s symbolic, you have to get through the first year, and you just have to get through it. There are no options. It’s a big milestone and it requires a certain acknowledgement. The second year? I didn’t really know what to do. What was I supposed to do? It now just becomes the first, next year to endure. That’s really it.

I think back to two years ago and can only shake my head in disbelief. I half-way joke with some people that “I must be living in a Greek drama or a Russian novel.  I don’t know which, but it’s one of the two.  Ha, ha.” Some people laugh; sort of, but most just tilt their head sideways. I sometimes try to explain the juxtaposition of life and death. Of chaos and evil and love. And how love and life must win over evil and death, but our individual lives are too short to see the ending so we are left unresolved. I think that just makes people depressed so I mostly shut up or change the subject to the weather or baseball.

But for now, Russian or Greek, here I am – In the eternal presence that, as Rumi says, neither comes nor goes. It just is. 

I sometimes will be doing something – something we’d do together – driving somewhere, sitting and reading, small things – and imagine you are still here. And then I realize that you are not.  But it's really a matter of timing, for you are, in fact, here, in this space. But sadly, not also in this time. Not in my present time. At least not anymore. Time left you behind and cursed us to continue on.  To continue to live in this present time. To live on and love again, in a new time. A new presence. And we are finding ways, slowly, tentatively, to live and love again, in this new life. In this current presence.

I’m just sad you can’t be with us anymore. In this time.



  1. John,this is powerful and honest and moving and beautiful all at the same time, so thanks for sharing it. When my father passed away in 2006, I received sympathy from many directions but only one person, a co-worker who'd also lost a parent, took me through what the grieving process would be like: how it would go on over several years, with each year being different, the feelings slowly moving towards some sort of steady state. And I was glad she thought to tell me it would be long and complicated, because that helped me be more accepting of the different phases as they came...

    So I got a heads-up as far as my dad was concerned, but I wasn't expecting to go through the same lengthy process with Amy. I was never a boyfriend or a husband, but after her passing I realized belatedly what a huge part she played in my college experience, and in the years afterwards as well. So in the last two years there've been plenty of things that remind me of her, and plenty of times when sadness has come out of the blue. And while I would never presume to know exactly you've been going through, know that in some small way, I can relate...

    My knowledge of quantum physics is limited, but it seems to make a mockery of our concept of time as a linear, forward motion with no turning back. The death of a loved one seems to have the same effect, with the past still present and stretching into the future. I wish I was still in the same universe as Amy, but it's nice to feel that she's in some universe somewhere, and she's probably still aware of us and what we've been doing. Some presences are too strong to go away, and no one was stronger than her, in my opinion. I'm probably past the point of making sense any more, but I just had to say it. All the best...


    1. Sheldon, thanks so much for the comment - you make perfect sense.

  2. John, your writing is powerful and heartbreaking. I knew Amy so briefly and Adam as a toddler. But the times I spent with Amy and Adam stand bright and real in my mind. I can only wish peace for you and boys. True, our present can not be changed....

  3. So many remember. My father (Rev. Gribbon) said a prayer for Amy at the altar on Sunday.


  4. John, I thought of you, and your family, and Amy, all day on Sunday, and all this week (I always do think of all of you, and of Amy- there are so many reminders!- but especially so, around this anniversary.) I, too, cannot believe two years has gone by so quickly. It seems impossible. My memories of her are so vivid, it's hard to believe she isn't here with us. Much love to you and the boys.

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  6. Thanks, all, for the thoughtful comments. It means a lot.

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  8. And as a widow myself, now in the 2nd year, "the first, next year to endure", I feel like you were able to put down into words many of the feelings that I have. In sharing your post with some of my friends and family, we each mourned and celebrated my beloved, Chama, again together.

    Thank you.


    1. Sandy, thanks for your comments. I'm truly sorry we have this in common. I wish neither of us did.

      Be well,