something small, for Dan and all who loved him

It is April, and our friend is gone.

We feel him in warm air and dewy breezes. We hear his booming laugh in the first rumbles of thunder.

Yesterday, we remembered him. I silently mouthed the mourner’s kaddish, and the smell of warm soil drifted in through open doors. I sang him to the rafters as sunlight streamed through the windows.

When we last saw Dan, it was still cold. The sun was shining then, too, and sparrows flitted past the hospice window, gracing the balcony with brief landings. He told us, in hazy reverence, of the harpist who played for him that afternoon. “A blast of harp music,” he called it–some small tonic for the pain of cancer. He smiled with us in looking forward to our honeymoon. He held his wife’s hand and told her he loved her. We had few words to share, but our love leaked out of our sad smiles and filled the room, thick and heavy, like the air before rain, like syrup–almost too sweet to bear.

I had just begun to know him. My husband knew him longer, and breathed the love of him into me: his meticulous cooking, his creativity, his caring, and nurturing, and guidance. In living, he taught us to know our worth. In dying, he taught us to bring love to death, to honor what we have done–to be brave.

He brought many of us together in life, and so, in his passing, we raise him up together–hands playing the chords he wrote, voices singing the songs he knew so well. With the coming of summer, we carry him with us to the festivals where he would have danced. We are conduits for his radiating joy. We bask in his light with the warmth of sun on our skin.

I heard it somewhere: grief means that we have loved. My husband loved Dan, and I love my husband with the depth of oceans. In our tiny family, we wear love and heartbreak on our sleeves. And so we wear our love of Dan, more transparently than ever, as we peel off the sleeves of winter and beckon the coming of spring.

It is April, and our friend is gone, but we feel him everywhere. We drink him in the drops of rain, we smell him in the flowers. We hear his voice in the boom of thunder. You are with us, Dan, and our grief is for the joy of loving you.