It's been exactly 4 weeks since Dow's light faded. Life completely changed-yet continued nearly unaltered all in that same moment. There's not a single millisecond that goes by that he's not on my mind one way or another. Initially, I filled my time by focusing on every minutia of making the arrangements . All walks of life turned out to say goodbye. Old friends, new friends, friends from near and far, colleagues, acquaintances, neighbors, teammates, and family. I have been a bit bewildered by the reactions regarding the men of rugby. I've had numerous people mention how surprised they were to see these sweaty, foul-mouthed giants turnout in throngs. Beautifully quaffed, completely endearing, and crumbling, with the loss of a dear mate. This is the rugby family I've come to know and love. All of them, cut from the same unique cloth as Dow. Intelligent, delightful, incredibly successful and sincere men; who all just happen to like to bash their heads into one another and whose vernacular could make a sailor blush. I can only hope that Dow was proud of the way we chose to honor him and celebrate his life.
Aside from picking up the pieces to my broken heart, I've also had to mend the tiny bruised and battered heart of our three year-old. This was by far, the thing I dreaded the most during this process. From the beginning, we were as honest with Sloane as we could possibly be, in terms of which she understood. She knew dad "was sick" and that "dad's head had a booboo." Nothing prepared me for that Saturday morning when she came bounding down the stairs like she always had. It took a bit, but she soon asked to go in and see her dad; just as I started fumbling over words- she was quickly distracted and I was given a little more time to choose them carefully. When she finally found her way back, about an hour later-I still didn't know what to say. I simply told her that her dad had died.... He is no longer here. His body was very sick and it stopped working. She thought for a moment and said "When he feels better he will come home, and we will see him." I took her into the office that had become his hospital room for the week and showed her the empty bed. I said "We won't see dad anymore, he is gone." "He's in Heaven." (For lack of a better term, to her-this is a concrete place) She said "God will make him feel better, he can walk and he can talk, and then we can see him." I once again reiterated our reality and it finally seemed to sink in. She whimpered and said "I miss my dad." I said, "I miss him too."
We hung out in that room for most of the weekend, repeating this same conversation multiple times. This has continued, but the frequency has diminished. She seems to be doing well. She started counseling this week and appears to be quite enlightened for her age. There is no right or wrong way to handle something like this. I feel like honesty works well for us. I want the kids to know this was not a choice Dow made-he would have given anything to be with them. I feel it will be even more important to preserve his memory for them. While this is hard for me, I think it's crucial to talk about him, tell his stories, keep photos and his personal belongings around-so they can hopefully get a feel for, and keep their vague memories of their wonderful father.
As the days multiply, the recent flood of horrible images have started to fade. Slowly, Dow's puffy face and altered gaze have left my mind and all I see is that charmingly crooked smile and persuasive blue eyes. These are the memories that paralyze me. Normalcy may be returning , but this is when I miss him most. Night time is the worst. The stillness allows me time to reflect and remember so many sleepless nights we spent playing games, watching movies, and scavenging for late-night meals. The advantage of coupling up on the night shift is that when you have free time, most of the world around you is asleep. Stripping away distractions and daily responsibilities, leaves you with the ability to completely focus on the person in front of you. The loss of this kind of intimacy is indescribable.
Last Valentine's Day, we spent a beautiful evening at the Nelson-Atkins Art Gallery, studying contemporary works of art in which "love" was displayed. A particular piece struck us both deeply, and I can't help but think of that piece today. Félix González-Torres created a modern instillation that featured two hanging light bulbs; cords intertwined, illuminating the space indistinguishably. Anyone that houses the piece has been instructed not to change either bulb until both have burned out. Such a perfect analogy. As life goes, when two souls find each other, rarely do their spirits exit together. It appears I am the lone flickering bulb in the gallery trying to fill the darkness left behind.