In my life I have found two things of priceless worth - learning and loving. Nothing else - not fame, not power, not achievement for its own sake - can possibly have the same lasting value. For when your life is over, if you can say "I have learned" and "I have loved," you will also be able to say "I have been happy."
~ Arthur C. Clarke
Three weeks after my cousin Dale's death. Five days after the memorial service. Some days are like any other. Some days, like today, I feel quivering in my stomach and tears ready to fall. This morning I woke feeling uneasy, like something is wrong but I don't know what. The feeling continues through morning tea, chatting with my sister - I'm staying with her in Grass Valley - and then a choking feeling comes over me and I have to leave the room.
I know from past experience that grief does what it does, and the best thing I can do is acknowledge feelings, cry when I need to, and just keep moving. I flew to California last Monday to attend the memorial service on Tuesday and came here to my sister's house immediately afterward. I am hunkered down in the love of family: two sisters, two brothers-in-law, two cats who make us laugh.
It's been cool here compared to the weather I left in Colorado, where the hot hot days were draped in smoke from the fires to the north and south of where I live, more fires breaking out in the few days I've been here. I read, I watch TV - Olympic trials and NCIS re-runs, old movies - and I ride the waves of grief.
This cousin was like an older brother, playmates from the beginning of my memory. By the time we entered high school, we were confidants. He dated my best friend; I dated his best friend; we double-dated. My first boyfriend was at Dale's memorial service, and though I hadn't seen him in 50 years, it was as if no time had passed. I wouldn't have recognized him if he hadn't sent a photo, but I easily recognized his warm heart and his sense of humor. I felt comforted when we sat next to each other awaiting our turn at the dais to talk about the Dale we knew.
From my temporary perch here at my sister's house in the Sierra foothills, time telescopes, and we are all children again. I'm waiting for Aunt Helen and Uncle Tony to drive up, Dale making room for me in the back seat, and we're off to the state fair or a picnic or a play or a concert. Then I'm 14, Dale 16, and I'm sitting in the back seat of the black and white Pontiac with Dale's best friend. He and my best friend are in the front seat talking, and I am looking out the window at San Francisco streets.
Dale was a reader of science fiction from the time we were kids, and he believed in a world that was far bigger than the bit of time and space we occupy in this lifetime. He was a lifelong learner, and he loved deeply. And so he was happy. I find great comfort in that.