I always feel a twinge of sadness when the Chrysanthemums bloom; they bring memories of Grandma Shafer to me, in a rush, but they don't bring her. They can't, and neither can Marshmallow Fluff, hard as it tries.
This year, I feel two twinges of sadness: one for Grandma Shafer, and one for Mac. He handed me a white envelope of Chrysanthemum bulbs, once, with my name printed on the outside. He'd used a blue magic marker and written in all caps, but he'd spelled my name correctly. I took the envelope (because I never turn down a gift from the heart), but I didn't plant the bulbs. And now they're wasted and Mac gone.
I loved him. I still do.
I've lost three friends this year: Bob in February; Grandpa in April; Mac in June. None of the above were related to me, but I would've claimed any of them, and I reckon I did at one point or another.
The first loss hit hardest and still does, and it's almost a mystery to me: the resonance and echo of it. I feel fairly stupid talking about it; if you were on the outside, looking in, you would've seen so many others gathered close, and me just on the fringes.
I can only offer, as an explanation: God used Bob to teach me really big things. Some of the biggest, to date.
I found myself talking about Bob from a podium, at a women's retreat in July. I talked about how I haven't lost him because I allowed knowing him to change me, also because I will see him again, someday, in heaven. I talked about the pain I cause myself in claiming and clutching people and things that don't belong to me. And I cried.
I want to use--in this place of pain and sin--the things that Bob, and Grandpa, and Mac taught me.
Back in June, I dreamed Grandma B. Most of what she said concerned my writing; she was adamant that I keep it up. I awoke confused for two reasons: 1) it was out of character for her to be THAT concerned with my writing, and 2) she'd come to me much like my deceased grandparents*, but--so far as I knew--she was still alive. I waited for a call.
The call came, but it concerned Mac, not Grandma. I understood, right away: Mac had come through all sloppy in his trying to convey that he (a writer) had been a grandparent figure to me and cared very much about my continuing to write.
It was as much power as I will ever again know him to have, this side of heaven, unless I live out what he taught me about generosity, about words.
And I plan to keep him here, also to plant some yellow Chrysanthemums and pretend they've sprouted from his bulbs.
*I realize my words carry controversy, but you're not going to change my mind about my experiences, so, please, preserve your energy.