Lots of “firsts” these days. This past weekend we had our first dinner guest since Steve went missing. Our longtime friend, Marci, came to spend the evening with us.
As the sun went down, I began preparing my favorite soup recipe. Same kitchen, same music, same time of day. The same, but not the same.
As I focused on the task at hand (gathering ingredients, making stock, chopping vegetables), it began to almost feel normal. Except I wasn’t hearing “smells great!” from the family room where Steve should be relaxing and reading or watching a game.
It was clearly too quiet, so I turned on Pandora. Somehow I have trained “her” in recent weeks to play sad love songs. Wonder how that happened! I’ve been noticing my emotions become stirred by music in a way they never have before. Behold the singing, weeping chef! (I tell myself I need to pick up the guitar again…)
When Marci arrives there is just me to greet her, as Ellie is upstairs showering. She graciously fills the air with conversation. Our relationship with Marci started when she was Ellie’s kindergarten teacher 11 years ago, and has been gradually evolving over time. Steve was our biggest link in recent years, as he spent so much time at her ranch–envisioning beautiful, functional improvements, then making them happen.
So now that she’s in our house and he’s gone, do we let ourselves speak freely about him or not?
I’m happy with the balance that we find. We go ahead and talk about how much he would have loved the finished product of her kitchen remodel–creatively envisioned along with him years ago, completed recently without him.
My favorite parts of spending time with people who knew Steve are when they share things he did or said when he was with them. He built a bunkhouse and office for another friend and ranch woman. She told me recently of how he wanted to show her that if he designed it a particular way, he could bring extra light into the tiny office area. She said “But I just do paperwork in there. I hate paperwork!”, to which he replied “Don’t you want to hate it just a little bit less?”
These remembrances are unexpected gifts to me. A few more images, impressions I can store in my mind and heart that remind me: “Yes, that’s the kind of man he was.” In that moment it feels like I have a little piece of him, his presence. So welcome.
When it comes to speaking about Steve, I think people are generally worried. They want to say the “right” thing, and surely don’t want to cause pain, so most people say nothing. I can see an idea form… followed by a quick intake of breath…the words right there. But before they can escape, lips press tightly together, eyes look away, and awkward silence moves in.
I think I probably speak for many people who have lost loved ones, when I encourage you not to hold yourself back from mentioning them in conversation. You won’t bring us more pain. It just doesn’t work like that. Quite the opposite.
So when you come through my door, please, please say his name.
Grateful for all of the times you have, and all of the times you will!