Sixteen years today. Sixteen years since we stood around that hospital bed and waited for the beeping to stop. Sixteen years since Uncle Randy sang a hymn to see his beloved brother out. It’s been sixteen years and part of me still thinks you’re pulling a prank. I still see glimpses of salt and pepper hair, a guy in a denim shirt climbing in a tiny red car. Surely you aren’t really gone. But you are, and in a few years, I will have lived longer without you than I lived with you.
In a few years, a few breaths, just moments from now, I will be as old as you, and then I will be older than you ever were.
I can say this, you made the most of 52 years. You used to tell me about the hippie days, when you’d say “Live fast, die young and leave a beautiful corpse,” which is just the kind of morbid humor we both found so funny. We still do, Daddy, all of us. Well, maybe not Leah, she is appropriately horrified by such talk. Mama told me when she goes to sprinkle her ashes at Walmart on 242, because she was so happy there. It’s not funny but it’s so funny. In some ways your irreverence toward death makes it easier, the loss. Death is not the boss of us, we keep living and laughing.
You didn’t live like you were creating a legacy, you just lived. You woke up in the morning and you loved us. You woke up in the morning and you loved Jesus, and you worked and you wrote and you directed, always with the laughter, always safe and surrounding. You had no intention of dying but when death took you, you left with the right words said, because you always said how proud you were and how you loved us.
It’s gotten easier, living here without you. At first I didn’t know how to exist. But since you’ve pulled off this prank for a solid 16 years, all of us have learned how to remember you and celebrate you as part of who we are. You didn’t set out to leave a legacy but you did.
So in these moments, this life I have, I will remember to say I love you. I will do my work and love the people around me and just be, because this is the stuff they write history books about.