‘”What causes an echo?” she once quizzed me. The persistence of sound after the source has stopped. “When can you hear an echo?” When it’s quiet and other sounds are absorbed.’
– Mitch Albom, from For One More Day
These are my favorite lines from a short, sentimental novel the author calls a “family ghost story.” Not long after you died, I mentioned to a musician friend that it was so quiet. Your “sound” seemed to have left the world – the sound of your exuberance, your laughter, the literal vibration of your life. I could no longer identify it in my audible field. Without realizing it consciously, I started then to listen for an echo of sorts – the persistence of you. And I find I can somehow perceive the “persistence of you” most clearly when it’s quiet, or perhaps more aptly, when I’m quiet inside. But not always! Sometimes, in the noisiest of family gatherings, that echo punctuates the party. Just like you did.
Recently, an old friend of ours, cried with me about how terrible those last months were for you. It was such relief to know she grasped some of the enormity of what you endured, and to share the anguish of that knowledge together meant so much to me. Then, she apologized for bringing it up! I’m not sure she fully understood when I explained that I welcomed it, was grateful beyond words that she had spoken of those life-altering events. I think somehow we quiet the echoes of our deceased loved ones when we avoid painful memories – and even joyous ones – in well-meaning attempts to spare each other more sadness. We also stifle an opportunity for grief to be expressed in community, and the easing of sorrow, however temporary, that it brings.
This week I’ll be reunited with several of our long-time friends. With a few, it will be the first time since your memorial. Your name will be spoken freely, and your photo will be prominently displayed on the mantle. We’ll use some of your serving dishes on the table, and your favorite music will be played. Stories will be told. Echoes will be heard.