4 July 2005
Lori, Beth, and Bob were getting back to normal, but clearly still in mourning. I was running through ideas on how to cheer them up while Jackie and I were going through my books the other day, and suggested hosting a cookout for the Fourth of July. When I suggested it, Jackie put her book down and rested her hand on my shoulder.
"John," she said, then waited until I was looking at her. "Listen, I don't know what it's like for you, but you need to understand that for most of us, death is permanent."
"No, I get that, I just--"
"Do you? I mean, you've clearly been trying to comfort Lori through a difficult loss, and that's great, but you just seem like you expect it to go faster than it really should. They have had to grapple with saying goodbye to their close friend for the last time, and under particularly difficult circumstances. There are no ghosts in their daily experience, no conversations they can have with those they've lost. Death is the end." I set my book down and stared at it for a little while.
"Not everyone sticks around, you know," I finally said. "They have to have a reason. Otherwise, it's just...echoes, scraps, little bits of them laying around in the aether. My...I've lost people, too."
"We don't even get that, you know. Those memories, those echoes, those little pieces of them in the metaphysical realm. We have only what's in our own heads, and the objects they leave behind. It's not the same."
"So you think the cookout is a bad idea?"
"No, no, not really. It's just, make sure you're mindful of where they are while you do it, okay? It'll be nice for things to feel normal, but some cookout isn't going to fix things. And if this Mark was fond of the holiday, it may be extra difficult for them. Just...be careful, yeah?" I nodded, and we went back to what we were doing.
We did end up hosting the cookout today, and it went really well. Lori, Bob, and Beth all seemed to appreciate it, and I tried to give them space when they needed it. Rick insisted on working the grill, which was fine for burgers and hot dogs, but I made certain I knew exactly how the barbecue chicken was seasoned and cooked. The whole band was there, and we ended up playing a few songs when it was getting dark. It was fun, and by the end everyone seemed to leave in a good mood. Lori kept a little distance from Jackie, but she stayed over for the first time in weeks. I really think things are starting to turn around for all of us.
The blog of John Matteson.