She died suddenly in mid-October, while the leaves were still decaying in brilliant hues. The world was tinged with a bittersweet sadness, the knowing that these beautiful colors were propelled by an end. My own life was going through a stage of death and becoming—the divorce had been final the week before, and I was numbly packing and making plans, when I got the call from Sara, telling me that someone close to her had passed away, asking me if I would play piano for the funeral.
I began working on the setlist that afternoon.
They wanted music that was beautiful, beyond that, her widower had only had two specific requests to be included before and after the speeches—"Clair de Lune,” and a piece by Norah Jones entitled, “I Don’t Know Why.”
A week later, I showed up to the funeral home with an armload of music books. There were no black suits in the crowd, and though sadness permeated everything, it was overpowered by gratitude… for the life that had been shared with that ethereal soul who had spread love and joy so freely to all in her path. As I began to play, the expressions in the crowd softened and we leaned in and grieved the ever-changing nature of life together. There were speeches, pictures, tears, laughter, memories of a life well-lived. The speaker sat down and nodded towards me, and I started the final song:
The last notes faded like a sigh. When we looked up, and at each other, the load was lighter. The rows emptied, and the community began to mingle and shake hands; I collected my books and slipped out.
As I drove away, I rolled the windows down and let the spiced air fill my lungs. I took the long way back that afternoon and meandered down lanes that were bursting with color, letting my thoughts unfold slowly, as the currents in the breeze spread my fingers wide. A sliver of light began to warm the ache in me, and I began to sense a truth then that I couldn’t quite believe until now, nearly a year later: the ability to love is a gift—even when loving brings us pain. Even amidst death or divorce or any other perceived ending, changing season, or altered course, loving was still worth it.
In a lifespan
as brief as ours,
perhaps the line
between endings and beginnings
is of our own making.
So, may we love
again, and all the more
for this is all of life.