I love this photo of MR, not just because it's one of the nicest I've ever seen of her, but because that loud Hawaiian shirt she has her arm around? That's me. No matter how much time goes by, I know that she's right here, by my side. Forever.
In 2012, I lost my best friend to pancreatic cancer. Mary Rose was a former lover, and sister-like dear, dear friend. She had a great retirement package, savings, a beautiful home, but her life was cut short.She was at peace with the situation at the end of her fight, and had six-years to get ready. The long goodbye helped, but my grief at her loss was devastating. The deeply connected day to day-ness of our relationship meant that, when she was gone, I was left with a huge hole in my life. Margaret, Alyssa, and I were the “Mary Widows,” I forget who jokingly coined that phrase, but it stuck.
We embodied the most excellent lesbian phenomenon of extended family—the chosen family created of ex-lovers. Alyssa and I worked alongside and supported Margaret, who was the executor, through the months of dealing with Mary Rose’s possessions, and her oft-stated wishes that we honor “The Law of Use.” Things should go out into the world to friends and family who could make use of them. We did our best, and eventually the task was finished. We stayed in touch, texting, calling and occasionally dining or doing other things together, 2013 was a very dark year for me as I grieved this loss.
But MR (as I came to call her over the years) had a plan. She left a financial legacy behind to say, “I love you,” “I care about you,” and “I honor the work you/your organization has done.” When the estate is finally settled, a bit of that love is coming my way. I am torn between thinking of the way she wanted my future to be secure and appropriately funded, and remembering the woman I loved, who worked hard, earned and spent her money on helping her friends, and believed in traveling, and having great experiences. Considering how short her time was on this earth, I am really glad she lived that way.
I planned to go over to Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, and have a conversation with her spirit. I know, I can talk to her anywhere, but I like the hill where her stone is. I bring a lawn chair and a cup of tea, and just think about having a conversation with her about things. I knew her pretty well after 23 years. Maybe I’ll get clarity around my RVing plan.
Sunday morning, I went to visit to MR at Greenwood. I got into my car, the 1999 Lesbaru named “Farrie.” I turned the key in the ignition and the radio had been left on. The voice coming out of it immediately was the host of the show “On Being.” Krista Tippett, in the middle of an interview with the poet, Marie Howe. The first words I heard as the radio snapped on, was Krista, reading the opening lines from the poem Sorrow: “So now it has our complete attention, and we are made whole.” I don’t remember what else she said at that point because I was crying projectile tears onto my glasses and looking for a tissue. I felt like Mary was sitting next to me in the car, and the message was clear. I had her blessing to go on this journey—to live and enjoy this pilgrimage, and become whole.
I did go over to Green Wood that day, and sit up on Mary’s hill for a while. I had the meditation/conversation I needed with her, but just like when she was on steroids for her treatment, she’d already had the whole conversation. It just took me a little while to catch up.
So now it has our complete attention, and we are made whole.
We take it into our hands like a rope, grateful and tethered,
freed from waiting for it to happen. It is here, precisely
as we imagined.
If the man has died, if the child’s illness has taken a sudden
turn, if the house has burned in the middle of the night
and in winter, there is at least a kind of stopping that will
pass for peace.
Now when we speak it is with a great seriousness, and when
we touch it is with our own fingers, and when we listen
it is with our big eyes that have looked at a thing
and have not blinked.
There is no longer any reason to distrust us. When it leaves
it will leave like summer, and we will remember it as a break
in something that had seemed as unrelenting as coming rain
and we will be sorry to see it go.