Revised thank-you note, now that you’ve died

Dear Michael,

Remember last month, when I gave you that card and bouquet? It was one of those times when “thank you” just doesn’t cut it and it’s so frustrating not to be able to convey how much a person has given you. You had just taken a whole day to show us the exhibits you love at the Getty, even though it meant being at work on your day off. Getting teased about your shorts by your coworkers in ties. I couldn’t thank you enough for making that amazing lunch and bringing art supplies and sitting me in front of James Ensor to create something tangible and lasting of my own from his inspiration. For sharing your life and making me laugh, a lot. After that day a thank-you note felt pretty lame. But I wrote it and told you you’re a natural teacher and that I treasure you. And when the lilies in the arrangement I had done up for you opened, you texted me to say the scent was everywhere in your house and made you think of me.

Well then you shocked us all and died.

Considering how much I connect with spirit and go around celebrating the truth of our perpetual divine lives, I had the strangest reaction — I was devastated. I choked out a cry, I wanted it to be a mistake. I thought we should call you and say, “Hang on! Are you sure this is what you mean to do? Now??”

As many times as I have gotten to see and hear that we exist beyond our physical bodies, I did not think it was right for you to stop walking around and smiling through yours. And I’ve been full of wonder all over again about the mystery of our being here where we experience art and lilies and grilled vegetables and fireworks one way, until it’s time for us to live through them a different way. And why feeling so attached to each other often seems to be the whole story, when we don’t actually get to keep holding on the way we want to.

So I’ve wanted to change my note to you, even though I know you already know it all now from your freeness. I think the person you have been, Michael, sweeps away the fearful questions most of us stew about so much.

You lived vibrantly, in every kind of experience. Your voice sticks in our minds, IMG_1625
both as sly humor and earnest curiosity. I’m sure at every single moment someone is thinking of you because of a choir in song, baked goods, babies, pet peeves, hard work … countless things we run across that we know you relished. And you loved vibrantly, the part that really makes you a perfect teacher. When you heard from my mom about tough things I’d been going through, you stepped forward with the most unquestioning, manifest support. It was genuinely important to you that I remember how to be cared for and looked after when I was most used to doing the care-taking. And you succeeded through simple, gracious action.

The most joyous thought for me since that stunning Thursday is to consider how many hundreds of others have seen life’s goodness and felt unabashed love by knowing you. There are so many of us who get to try and hold up your example because you shared yourself so boldly. I heard a rumor the Getty almost had to shut its doors for the day when your colleagues learned you had died, and I understood. Thanks to all the years I’ve known you … and the day you gave me there last month.

I’m so grateful to know you haven’t gone far, Michael. It still makes me cry when I think of your promise to have the boys up for fireworks next year — but I think you’ll be right in there, thrilled by them in a whole new way.

Love, Amanda

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