The fifteenth anniversary of Jerry’s death was yesterday — I somehow find it easier to write about it the day after. I so wish he had lived to share this part of life with me, to see our kids mature into mid-life, to know his grandchildren. But life often fails to grant our wishes. I talk about that at the book events, when I read sections of the memoir. Participants in the events are usually older, and all have suffered losses: of a cherished person, of health or well-being, of a deeply-held hope or dream, of mental health, of the ability to navigate the world, of a sense of home, of a treasured possession that has vanished or can no longer be kept — like a family property. Saying that coping with loss is a part of life is certainly true but feels a bit glib.
Jerry took better care of himself than anyone I know, so loss is often not about what we do or fail to do. Rather, loss can be about what befalls us. Religious people often believe all of that is orchestrated by a personal God, a belief that I suspect works better when life is good and not so well when the case is senseless tragedy. I read a brief piece on CNN online about a five year old who was crushed in a revolving restaurant while his parents were nearby having dinner. Hard to think of that as stage-managed by God, and it’s hard to think of Jerry’s death as part of a divine plan either.
My father and Jerry both died suddenly of the same thing: a massive coronary event. I was fourteen at my father’s death, and fifty six at Jerry’s. My mother cleaned out everything that reminded me of my father, and we rarely spoke about him, so after that death I had great difficulty holding on to a sense that my father was any part of my life. It’s been different with Jerry. I think about him often, and I see bits of him in our grown offspring, Sara and Matt. I still have to deal with trailing matters from our financial planning firm, all these years after the sale. And I’m secure in the sense of having known unconditional love, even though Jerry isn’t here to express that love now. I had it, and I trusted it, and that reality never goes away.
We don’t have many pictures of Jerry — he was always the one taking the pictures, not the one being in them. Here’s one, on our way to the book party for my first published work in 2002. It’s a picture of a picture so a bit fuzzy, but you get the idea.