Mar. 14, 2017

Butch and I moved 15 times the first five years we were married.

We were married in 1972 while Butch was home on leave from the Army.  He was stationed at Ft. Hood, TX.  Prior leaving to come home for the wedding, he rented our first apartment.  The rent was $75 per month, which was 25% of his income.  It was classic.  There had once been a window in the bathroom.  When the owner decided to convert the building to a triplex and live in the new unit, he simply cemented the window in.  He was clearly not plagued with a spirit of perfectionism, so it was pretty rough on our side of the wall.  The drain in the bottom of the shower (no bathtub) was not quiet in the center so you had to scoop the water into the drain to avoid standing water.  With the window sealed, there was no air circulating through the bathroom.  The combination of those two problems resulted in the constant growth of mildew in the shower.  Every Saturday we had to spray the whole thing with Clorox to stay ahead of it.  There was no sink in the bathroom.  Not to worry, there was a medicine cabinet over the kitchen sink.  The positive view of this was that it allowed for multi-tasking.  You could cook breakfast and brush your teeth at the same time.  No matter what I did, I could not stay ahead of the cockroaches.  I tried everything.  They would be gone for a week or two and then start showing up again.  When I painted the kitchen, I amused myself by painting the ones I saw with unique markings.  It was kind of like a migration pattern study.  I asked the neighbors to let me know if any of my painted bugs showed up at their house.  Then I would fumigate and see how long it took before painted bugs showed up in my kitchen again. There was no heating or air conditioning.  For heat, we had a very tiny space heater but it wasn’t safe to leave it on when we were asleep.  Thankfully, his sister gave us an electric blanket for a wedding present.  On freezing Texas mornings, I would get up, turn on the space heater, light all four burners on the gas stove and run the oven with the door open.  I would go back to bed for 30 minutes until it was warmer and then get up for the day.  Air conditioning was a box fan set in the window with a pan of ice in front of it.  I found a cute duplex we could rent for barely more than we were paying already.  It was modern!!  I was working in an insurance agency that was also a property management office.  I brought home the keys so Butch could go look at it the next day after work. He was unconvinced that we should move.  I left for work hoping he would even go by and look.  Fortunately, a monstrous spider chased him off the throne in the morning.  He went to work with the keys in his pocket.  There wasn’t much to do that day so his sergeant asked if anyone had any ideas how his group of 10 coworkers should spend the day.  Butch suggested that they help him move.   He called me after lunch and said, “Better do the paperwork on the duplex.  We live there now.”  Using linens and rugs in place of boxes, the 10 guys had literally packed everything, moved us to the new place, and then unpacked everything.  Beyond some mild anxiety about who exactly had moved my underwear, it was the best move of my life.  We lived there for the rest of the two years he was stationed there.

Moving next to Minnesota near my parents, we became apartment managers.  The first week we were there, I warmly greeted someone heading out of the building through the laundry room as I was cleaning and mopping the area.  Turns out he and a crew had been busily robbing several apartments on the 2nd and 3rd floor while everyone was at work, taking the most valuable of their Christmas gifts from under the tree.  Every time there was a blizzard, Butch was delivering a newly purchased truck for the dealership where he was employed.  Shoveling snow is only interesting the first time! After only a few months of trying to get a truck driving job, during the recession in 1974, in the middle of winter, we headed back to California. 

We made a brief attempt at living in Louisiana and Texas near my family but it didn't work out. We settled back in Sacramento and bought our first home. After eight years, we moved to the house we lived in for 30 years, until his death.  Our home quickly become a building full of ‘nots”.  It consisted of a living room where Butch was not watching TV or working on a project.  It had a kitchen where he was not coming in for a snuggle during commercials or cooking his famous creations.  There was a bathroom where he was not leaving me messages in the steam on the mirror.  There was a back yard where he was not playing soccer with the dog or waiting for his fruit crops to ripen or practicing with his bow and arrow.  Evenings were times when he was not sitting with me in the swing he made and not tinkering in his shop full of treasures.  It was like living in a mine field waiting for the next explosion to occur.  I realized that every widow or widower had to live through that and come out on the other side, but it became very tempting to move. My daughter-in-law was unrelenting in her efforts to find a house close to them.  Because of her diligence, I was able to make an offer on a great house, blocks away from them, at the same moment it was listed.  It had not been updated since it was built in 1972 so there was lots of work to do both before the move and since. It is all fresh and new.  I love my house. At the same time, moving was incredibly hard.  In dozens of ways, it was like losing him again and again.  

Becoming us without them includes losing them in stages over time.  Whether we change addresses or not, there is lots of “moving” involved.  Is it more painful to leave their things in our bedroom and be reminded of them constantly or to clean it all out and rattle around in the space created by their absence?  What do we do with their stuff?  Do we give it to people they loved, only to see it later?  Do we sell it for pennies on the dollar, releasing their treasures to people who won’t value them?  Do we give it to charity, turning our loss into a gift to someone else?  What do we hold on to and why?  Do we follow the advice to not clean out too early and be sorry for giving away things we later miss?  Or do we clean out while we are still numb with the shock and can be more ruthless, unlikely to even remember what is gone, much less miss it later?  Can we ask for the support we will need for the heavy lifting and the heart wrenching process?  Will they know that we can't ask?  Each and every object can have memories attached.  The sweet memories of gifts given and received only call to attention the depth of what is lost and now gone forever.  Working our way through their world paints a fuller picture of them, even for us.  We see their heart, their quirks, their humor.  We feel the sadness of not having known those things about them while they were alive.  We feel the pain of having known them so well and appreciated them so poorly.  We remember what made us crazy, but would gladly embrace even those things if we could have them back.  The life that was us with them crumbles one object at a time, one room at a time.  It feels as if we are crumbling too.  Eventually, we are told, the emptiness will be filled.  The pain will lessen.  The new life we create emerges out of the ashes of the past.  We survive and eventually thrive.  Our healing lights the way for those who come behind us on the path.  What felt like unending pain becomes resilience.  

And in the depths of despair, at the darkest hour, we find God waiting with arms open wide, and it means more than it ever did.  When he is finally all we have, we can begin to understand that he is all we need.  

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Mar. 12, 2017

Butch was amazing with animals.  He could tame a feral kitty so completely you would never know they had been wild.  When his office was moving, he was concerned that two wild rabbits that lived outside their building and were fed every day would die.  He caught them and found a nice place for one of them to live in a complex where there were outside tables where staff would continue to spoil it.  The other one he brought home.  He built it a huge hutch.  It progressively came to believe it was a cat and hung out with our two tom cats.  He trained it to come and sit on your foot to get a carrot.  It was cute but annoying.  When you went outside it would follow you around sitting on your foot until it got that carrot.  When we were first married, we had a parakeet that followed him around everywhere.  It would sit on the shower curtain when Butch showered and sing and take its own shower.  They ate chips and onion dip together each evening after work.  His favorite cat would fetch balls he made from Kleenex and scotch tape.  A wild robin once built her nest on our back porch and Butch got one of the babies so used to him that he got it to perch on his shoulder as he sat in the back-yard swing.  He would get up each morning and stir the food around in the cat’s self-serve feeder so there was fresh food at the top.  The cat would not eat until he did that each day.  If Butch hit the snooze button too many times one of his cats would climb up on the dresser and start throwing things onto the floor until Butch got up and dressed for work.

He taught all our dogs to do crazy tricks.  Our first dog together was an Irish Setter.  It adored our oldest son and agreed to eat anything our son flicked off the high chair to avoid having to eat it himself.  We lived on a chicken farm for awhile.  He could walk the Irish Setter into the barn with thousands of newly delivered baby chickens and the dog never even looked down.  To sit down, it would wag its tail and swish out a clear spot to sit without bothering one chick in the process.  The dog would lay under the living room window and allow our 18-month-old son to stand on him as he watched for his father to come home from work. We had an American Fox Hound that would back up and sit on the couch.  Butch taught him to sit where he pointed.  When kids came over Butch would point to the space next to the guest and order the dog to go sit next to John.  John would then be amazed that the dog knew his name!!  We have had dogs that rolled over to the command Yoba Kimba and other bizarre combinations.  One of his hounds would roll on its back when he asked it if it was a dead armadillo.  It would then groan. spread all four legs out as far as it could, and turn its head to one side with his eyes closed and his tongue out of his mouth.   He trained the dogs not to go out the front door.  They would sit on the threshold forever but never step outside.  A friend once came to visit and found the front door standing wide open.  Our son, definitely not a morning person, rushed out the door half asleep to get to school and left the door open.  She said the dog was sitting patiently at the door of the empty house.  She would not allow our friend on the porch, but she also stayed behind the threshold to harass her.  His best jeep buddy dog would wear a sun visor and kerchief as they cruised around town together. 

My companion now is his sweet border collie, Olivia (known as Ollie).  She plays soccer.  She is the best defender in the world.  Watching the ball with amazing intuition, you can rarely get a kick away that she does not block or catch.  She dribbles the ball with her feet and nose like a pro, using bushes as opponents to make it more interesting.  She throws her flat soccer ball up in the air for herself as she runs and catches it every time.  When he went outside he would tell her, “Go get your ball.” She would find it and drop it at his feet.  When I say that she sits and stares at me like I am out of my mind until I get the ball myself.  She is a great therapy dog, offering consolation to my clients in times of distress on the days I take her with me rather than leaving her home alone on long days.  He used to tell her to “Go check on Mom.” and she would come find me in the house and demand a quick pat or two before returning to him.  Sometimes, when I would sit in the back-yard swing after he died, it seemed as if he was out there with her, still enjoying her as she played.  When I would become especially upset she would suddenly stop playing and run over to me as if he was out there and sent her to “Check on Mom.” She misses him as much as I do.  I think she still expects him to come through the door.  I don’t know what it is like for a dog to lose someone they love that much.  If it is possible for a dog to mourn, she is definitely in this with me.

Pets are a part of them that we inherit when they die.  Becoming us without them can mean becoming us with their pets.  If we have the option of keeping them, they help us hold onto an important piece of our loved one.  While they offer us unconditional love and companionship, they also trigger memories, both sweet and sad.  Their pets are one more part of the collateral damage that is inevitable when someone dies and someone else has to pick up the pieces.  If we must let go of pets we cannot take care of it is like losing a piece of our loved ones again.  It can feel like a betrayal of their trust in us to care for their beloved animals if we choose to simplify our lives and give them away.  Watching their pets leave pours salt on the gaping wound that was created when they died. We just can’t give them more choices than we have.

If there are dogs in heaven, I’m sure one of them is now rolling over to the command Yoba Kimba.  

The Grocery Store

Mar. 10, 2017

When Butch and I were first married and he was stationed at Ft Hood, TX, we found lots of differences in grocery stores between California and Texas.  One of our first trips to the grocery store together we had garbanzo beans on our list.  When we asked where they were, no one had any idea what we were talking about.  He amused himself as we continued shopping by chanting, “Garbanzo beans, where are you?” My cousin informed me that if we had just referred to them by their proper name—chick peas—we would not have had any problems finding them.  If someone asked for a price check on an item and he happened to be near a microphone (they had them hanging at various locations throughout the store back then) he would pick it up and offer some random price before the store employee had time to respond.  Having spent years organizing groceries in the trailer for delivery to the stores, he automatically organized the groceries in my cart.  It was much faster to put away groceries when he went because he arranged them in the cart the way they were at home.  The bags were generally packed so that all the items in a bag belonged together on our shelves.  I, on the other hand, just fling things into the cart.  He never stopped being a fun grocery store date, his quick humor finding something funny all the time.

Delivering to grocery stores for 50 years, he had a lot of stories to share.  Like many Californians, the first shaft of sunshine and he broke out the shorts.  With all the bicycling, he had very well defined muscles in his legs.  There was an employee in one of the bakeries who would regularly comment on what great legs he had.  It really started to bug him.  One day, she reached over and fondled his thigh just above the knee.  He was horrified to hear himself say, “I never in my life thought I would say this, but if you ever touch me again, I will file a sexual harassment claim.”  It seemed very unmanly to him.  It changed his perspective forever.  He was especially annoyed when he would be moving a heavy pallet of groceries down an aisle and someone would suddenly cut in front of him or stop directly in his path.  He could not imagine that people don’t get how hard it is to get that much weight moving and how really hard it is to get it to suddenly stop.  He was once moving a large pallet down a narrow aisle and a group of store employees working their way through the store discussing products suddenly came to a complete halt right in front of him.  There was no way around and no room to turn around.  He looked at the important looking person they were all listening to and said, “You are obviously very important.  But would you mind being important in another aisle?  I need to continue delivering your products.”  Another time, a bakery manager had a small but loud temper tantrum because he would not take her pies out of the cases and arrange them in alphabetical order on the shelf in the freezer.  His job was to drop the cases in the freezer, period.  After she had her little outburst, he said, “You obviously get people to do what you want when you act like that.  If you expect me to be intimidated by your female manipulations, you guessed wrong.  You haven’t met my wife.”  He cleaned that up by saying he was talking about the pre-therapy wife.

The only time I have any fun in the grocery store now is when I have my granddaughter with me.  She is currently in love with the movie Zootopia and the Bubble Guppies.  She recites lines from her favorite scenes constantly.  Listening to her singing the barely discernable lyrics from Zootopia (You can be anything) as she passionately makes hand gestures and claps for herself at the end is priceless.  It does wear on you as she loudly says, “Big Bubble City!!” 50 times though.  There were years when I was allowed to go with him in the truck.  It was a great escape from life to just ride along and watch him do his thing.  The view from up there is spectacular.  The interplay between the drivers and the dock crew and store managers is fascinating.  Mostly, though, it was a chance to see him in his element. 

I used the bathroom at Bel Air today.  It is inside the storage area in the rear of the store.  Walking back there, the part of the store I went with him, brought lots of memories rushing in.  The smell.  The sound of the receiver moving pallets around.  Squeezing through narrow passages and remembering how good he was at navigating those spaces.  Just remembering him.  Always knowing there was a joke just about to be told, a laugh just about to be shared.  And now, it’s just a walk to the bathroom. 

The shopping itself is another mine field.  It took months to stop reflexively picking up his favorite things.  It struck me as so sad that I would never again be able to bring him treats when I shop.  Who knew that aisles of groceries could be so laden with pieces of him? I just want to hear his voice again.  Learning to shop and cook for one is a much more difficult transition than when we first married and I had to learn to cook for two instead of the seven in my family.  It is alarmingly easy to become robotic and habitual about food.  Even the things I really enjoyed cooking or eating when he was with me have lost their flavor without him. I can so clearly see my family’s generational belief that food is love and eating is fellowship rearing its ugly head in this.

I am told by my mentors in grief that becoming us without them very much means creating a new world around food.  People suggest taking a cooking class, trying new recipes, inviting friends to share a meal, and talking to our support people so they understand what’s going on for us and include us in their lives more mindfully. Like so many other parts of our new lives, this is one problem that cannot be tackled alone.  If we withdraw and sink into the misery that comes with our loss, we will be trapped in that misery for the rest of our lives.  The only way out is through.  Most people are more than happy to help someone who is proactively working to build a new life.  They grow weary of supporting us when their help doesn’t seem to be helpful.  Our grieving peers are infinitely patient with us, remembering what it was like for them.  They can walk miles and miles with us as we work through the pain.  Some people best support us as we learn things like how to have fun, laugh, and create new rituals and memories in the grocery store.  Others are able to walk with us through the catacombs, while we make peace with the ghosts and goblins.  Becoming us without them means figuring out who goes in which group and letting that be OK for us and for them. 

Just remember, it is never a good idea to pour out our whole story on the lady at the Kentucky Fried Chicken when she says, “How can I help you?”


Mar. 8, 2017

We were married in 1972.  Butch had to be on duty for the Army days later.  The car we owned at that point in time was a 1958 Ford.  The car was very special.  First, it would not start if I was in it.  When we went for our interview with the pastor that was going to marry us, he walked us to the door when it was time to leave.  I stopped at the door and Butch continued to the car.  “Aren’t you going with him?” he asked.  “No, the car won’t start with me in it so I have to wait here until it is running.”  He looked at me like I was crazy, shook his head, and walked back into the church.  This was not a joke.  The car would literally not start with me inside.  I carried jumper cables everywhere so I could get it started when Butch was not around.  Even crazier, if you passed a speed limit sign and were going faster than the posted limit, the car would die until you were going the right speed and then start back up.  That car died in the west Texas desert on our way home from visiting Butch’s uncle a year later.

Next, we bought the only new car we would ever own.  It was a 1972 VW Beetle.  We paid $2650 out the door.  It was the first year that they claimed that VWs would float.  I proved that one day during a Texas downpour when I drive through a flooded intersection.  The car, lifted by the too deep water, floated lazily across the intersection carried by the momentum, caught traction on the other side and continued down the road.  When we moved to Minnesota after Butch left the Army, we thought we were off Scott free because we did not have a radiator that would freeze.  We had much to learn about living in freezing Minnesota.  Little did we know that oil will freeze below a certain temperature.  Fortunately, a neighbor explained that to us before we blew up the engine.  We could not afford an oil pan heater until he got his first paycheck.  Every morning for 10 days, Butch would wake up, light a couple of charcoals in our tiny hibachi, slide it under the oil pan, then go back inside to finish dressing while the oil thawed so he could drive to work.  We bought the car in Texas in the spring, planning to move back to Sacramento.  To save money, and because we had not originally planned to move to Minnesota, we did not buy a heater.  Mild California winters would have made the natural flow of the warm air from the engine, which we could blow in with a fan, work well enough.  As we drove around on freezing Minnesota nights, however, there would be a small semi-circle of clear windshield on each side while the rest of the windows were frosted up inside the car.  I would have to use an ice scraper on the inside windows for visibility.

His favorite car of all was his Jeep.  He loved to drive around with the windows and doors off in the summer with his dog.  He got her a sun visor, which she patiently wore.  Not long after he got it, he had his first back surgery because of being clipped by a car on his bicycle and landing on his head—thank goodness for helmets.  The only car he could get in and out of without a lot of pain was mine, so I was driving the jeep to and from work most days.  In the boredom of convalescence, and against my request not to, he insisted on taking the doors and roof off in April, despite the very strong possibility that it could still rain.  As I was driving it home from work the next day, it did just that.  The bikini top popped a snap, which allowed the other snaps to come undone one by one.  It would have made a great America’s Funniest Home Videos prize winner if someone had been filming it.  I was quite the sight, as the bikini top progressively came unsnapped, then tore, and began flapping against my head as I was completely drenched.  The subsequent discussion was not one of our happier moments.  Our youngest son has it now.  He loves it as much as his father.

I have not managed to sell his pickup truck despite its having been more than a year since his death.  He loved that truck.  It makes me very sad to drive it.  I am consistently flooded with memories of him driving it and our trips together. I delivered bicycles and kayaks at transition points for practices and races for years in that truck helping him do what he loved so much. I hear his music playing, his talk shows yammering on, his voice as we drove along.  His dog still stops and sniffs at the door as she walks past it, hoping he will open the door and get out.  She was his dog through and through and will happily jump into any pickup truck that parks in the driveway and go home with any man who shows up.  We knew he was home when we heard the beep of his door locking.  It is hard to hear that sound when I lock it myself.  There is no part of driving the truck that is not a reminder that he is gone.  I figured out how to load it for trips to the dump with the tricks he used to get more in each load, using the knots it took forever to learn, and even backing into narrow spaces between other trucks.  I have also been proud of myself for asking the people next to me for help with the heaviest stuff rather than killing myself being a tough guy.  The truck and the dog are the last pieces of him that I have left.  I have trimmed all the trees, cleared out all the junk, hauled away everything that is going, and still it sits in the driveway. 

So much of the story of us is written in our cars.  So many places we travel now, we traveled together in the past.  So many trips we will take in the future will be the fulfillment of plans we made together.  Even if we go places we never went with them, never talked about together, or planned to go, we are not guaranteed that the sadness will not find us.  Enjoying something amazing without them is still just that, us without them.  How many times have we thought, “I can’t wait to tell them about…..”  “I wish he/she was here to see………….” “I can’t wait to get home to see them……….”  How long will it take before our car really feels like our car and not a car without them?  When will arriving at an airport or train station, pulling in the driveway, or walking into the house not include that sinking feeling that comes with not being greeted by them?  Ever again.  We are told by those who are farther into this journey that such a time does come.  We are promised that as the pain of the loss grows more faint, the sweetness of the memories intensifies.  The pain, they say, grows softer but does not go away.  Becoming us without them means making peace with the pain, not escaping from it.  It means accepting the pain as a new companion rather than wasting time trying to get rid of it.  Ultimately, we use what we have learned and what we have become to help others. 

God tells us that we are to be light and salt in the world.  Surviving this will make us just that.  


Mar. 6, 2017

I was 17 when Butch and I started dating.  I had three younger brothers and a younger sister.  He became big brother to all of them over the years.  He was infinitely patient.

My oldest brother challenged Butch to a weight lifting contest early on.  He lifted every day and looked like it.  Butch did not lift weights, but loaded and unloaded trucks for a living.  He was 6’4” and weighed 165 lbs. soaking wet.  My brother assumed it would be an easy victory.  I don’t remember the details, but I believe Butch told him to do his best and Butch would follow.  Butch doubled my brother’s best.  The 80,000 lbs. of cases Butch stacked and restacked onto pallets every day, made the weights easy work.  My brother never forgot.  Once, they went into a computer store together.  Butch was a technophobe in the truest sense of the word.  They were rebuilding my computer, with Butch as the trusty assistant.  Butch asked for the component he needed and the clerk was rude and condescending to him.  Not being able to tolerate Butch being treated like that, my brother quietly went from computer to computer typing a little something in each.  When Butch had what he wanted, my brother typed one more thing in the last computer, sending a command to all the computers to reformat themselves so they would all be blank.  As they walked out the door and the clerk realized what was happening, my brother told the clerk he should not treat people like that.  Needless to say, the clerk was furious.  Butch had no idea what had just happened, but he was sure it was bad.

My second brother was the family scapegoat.  My dad’s favorite indoor sport was verbally abusing him.  The first summer after we were married, we decided to give my brother a break and invited him to come and live with us for the summer.  One night they were wrestling.  Even though Butch consistently won, my brother initiated these sparring matches regularly.  I told them to stop wrestling in the house and take it outside.  Butch threw my brother over his shoulder and headed out the door.  Attempting to prevent himself from being dragged outside, my brother grabbed at the door, slamming his hand through the glass pane at the top.  We spent a few hours bonding in the emergency room.  Undaunted, my brother asserted that had he not been injured, he would have won that round.  Many years later, they played on a men’s soccer team together.  They worked really well in tandem—much better than in Texas.

My sister tells the story of the night I was put in charge while my parents went out.  She was 12.  I discovered she had climbed out of her window to hang out with her friends.  It was a given that if my parents came home and found her gone, something bad would happen to me.  I was so furious.  I set out on a scavenger hunt, going to the home of each of her friends.  As she tells the story, it was only Butch being there that kept me from killing her.  She liked to thank him for saving her life.  Her son came to live with us one summer when he was 16 and things with his step-father were bad.  My nephew and our youngest son were mad at one another and not speaking but our son was sent to pick him up from an event at church.  While they were gone, Butch and I filled every squirt gun we could find.  We split them 50-50 and left their share on the front porch.  Butch left five gallon buckets of water in several locations outside.  When they arrived on the porch, we opened the door and started world war three with our half of the squirt guns.  By the time they fought together to defeat us, drenched us both thoroughly, and took away all the guns, they were bosom buddies. 

My youngest brother, 13 years my junior, was like our son.  We drove all the way to Chihuahua City, Mexico because my brother was going to marry a woman who lived there and had asked Butch to perform the ritual of formally asking her father for permission for my brother to marry his daughter.  He spent hours writing his lines.  It was so sweet.  We served as surrogate grandparents to their kids, with Butch dreaming up exotic ways to surprise them with their first bicycles when it was time.  They would come to our home every couple of months and the guys would work together on a project in the house or on one of the cars.  Then we would go to their house and do the same next time.  My brother stepped in to fill Butch’s shoes in that way for me after Butch died.  He even spent a couple of weekends with my boys, doing projects in their homes, teaching them what Butch would have taught them if he had been around long enough to have the chance. 

We forget sometimes that others have been profoundly affected by their loss as well.  Not only has a hole opened up in our homes, but in their homes as well.  We are all in pain to varying degrees. They miss them too.  Our relationships with each of them changes.  Becoming us without them requires us to return alone to those homes and families where we were once an “us” or we lose everything.  We are left with the arduous task of building a new relationship in each of these places that does not include them.  It is unlikely we can replace them in the role they played with others, so new roles must be created.  Our shared history can be a source of comfort for all of us as we tell our stories and laugh together, even in the face of the pain of the loss.  Their memories can help keep them alive in our hearts.  They are our closet companions through the mourning. 

It is horrible to believe that no one will ever know us the way we were known by the person we lost.  But that is only partially true.  Our families and close friends knew them as long as we did.  More importantly, they knew us first.  And God, it is said, knew us before we were put in our mother’s womb.

We are known.  We are seen.  We are loved.