Six years.  Six Christmases.

After Howard died, my post office box filled to flowing nearly every day.  Inky words of condolence and hope, some smeared by youthful tears and others set forth in the shaky handwriting of women who’ve outlived so many that their grief in their day-to day-living comes through their strong, spidery scrawl.  Some of the messages made me angry, telling me that my brother had died for this reason or that reason, and that everything under the sun, which failed to rise with regularity in the small town where I lived when Howard died, had a reason.

I scanned the cards and thought of the milk souring in my refrigerator.  There was a reason for that.  There was no reason that I could see that my brother, the kindest of our three, the hardest working, should not live to see 20, should not know that satisfaction in taking on a mortgage, should not name his children.  And to be honest, though post-knee-crippling-grief I feel closer to the mysteries of the universe, and more able to at least appreciate that the world is not a petri dish, we do not actually know the reason for everything, I am still resentful of the lines on my father’s face that deepen in the late summer sun, when we must confront the reality of the number of years again.

At any rate, I am able to write these diatribes on grief, and all that I don’t know about it, because of all the notes, voice mails, and packages I received in the months (and years) after Howard’s death.  And there are many people who contacted me that I am not certain that I ever responded to, even with a cursory, “thank-you-for-thinking-of-me-during-this-horrible-time-that’s-turning-me-into-an-Academy-Award-winning-actress-yes-I’m-fine-and-not-drinking-alone.” And that is terrible, because whether or not what they had to say was illuminating, what I do know about helping others grieve is this: it is sending the letter, it is just showing up that counts.

This morning, I thank everyone who held out their hand to me, through the U.S. Mail or on the dance floor at Charlie’s, and distracted me from my internal dissertations on the whys.

Dancing with Howard at the wedding of Mark and Kray Luxbacher, 2004.

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