“Hold on Janice, I think a truck just drove by.”“Um…that was my stomach growling” Justin, the sound technician who worked with me on recording the audio version of my book, laughed heartily with me. I felt badly, drawing out the process with my unfed stomach. We recorded in 4-hour chunks, which winded up being the absolute max for me. I imagined that it would be my voice that got fatigued, but it was actually my body. Sitting so still with my head just the right distance from the mic while turned slightly to read the iPad was much harder than I thought it would be. Even moving my feet around or scratching my nose could only be done on a break with the sensitive mic catching the slightest sound. Everything about the process of developing and writing a book has been new and novel. I was excited about narrating for the audio version of my book. But I had to send in a recorded sample to get the gig, which surprised me, but makes sense. After all, we can’t all be Morgan Freeman! From there, my publisher found this delightful music studio in my town to do the recording. Justin Levy was the master behind the scenes, and I had NO IDEA how much work it would involve for him! Justin was reading the manuscript while I read and catching all of my mistakes and bumps along the way. Notable moments from the process:
I’m on a cross-country flight for my godson’s wedding. It will be the first time seeing him since his father, my dear friend, died of cancer. Steve died during COVID making his death one of so many for which there was no memorial; a gathering for him further complicated by his having moved to Canada. When I hug Susie, his wife, it will be our first touch since she lost him. She wisely planned a brunch for old friends the day before the wedding so that she could give space to those first greetings since Steve died—a gift to all of us and to herself, to be sure. It was her attempt to untangle the joy of a wedding from the unfamiliarity of Steve’s absence.
But joy and loss cannot be untangled. I will think about Steve countless times during this wedding of his son, dear Caleb, who looks so much like him. While I am only predicting, I’m guessing that the day will go something like this…We will sing, think of Steve, pray, think of Steve, toast, think of Steve, cut cake, think of Steve, dance, think of Steve, and so on. Joy and loss tangled together.
I’ll remember how Steve and Susie laid their hands on our shoulders and prayed for Dan and me during our wedding 30 years ago this May. I’ll remember Steve asking me if my allergies were bothering me once when I was crying. I’ll remember Steve telling me that I was more valuable than what I could do when I was planning to miss an important event. I’ll remember the way Steve made going to get donuts into a Spanish verb—“Donarmos!” he’d announce, grin wide.
And I’ll remember being asked to be Caleb’s godmother, on a day we weren’t thinking any of us would be gone before his wedding.
God, I hate death. But I love weddings. It will be wonderful to witness this rite of passage for dear Caleb and I feel sure the wedding will buoy me. I will wonder at where he is in his young life…the adventures ahead for him. I’ll enjoy seeing the joviality of his friends, the special touches that will set this wedding apart from others. I’ll watch Caleb and his new wife—Natalie is her name—for the signs of how they connect. I will be grateful for the solid foundation of his loving family, however incomplete it may feel without Steve present.
As happy as the day will be, I’ll feel the sting of death. We all will. A wedding celebration shows how we stand in rebellion against death, insisting that life carry on. Although today I don’t feel much like a rebel. Today, I just miss Steve.
Did you see the two-time heartbreak of Mikaela Shiffrin in the Olympics this week? She fell in one ski event, regrouped, then missed a gate in the next event. Slalom, which the commentary explained to me, was her specialty event. How crushing and horrifying and wrenching. After missing the gate, she sat down on the edge of the course and would not move for a very long time. Other skiers took their turns while she folded in on herself by the fence. The image of her sitting there burned into my mind and heart. How many of us can relate to a disappointment so acute that we are rendered immobile? And how often in the last couple of years have you wondered if you can keep going?
These are a few items from a list called “Signs You’re Succeeding in Life Even If You Don’t Feel You Are” that I found way before the pandemic from www.lifehack.org. Here are a few of them that caught my attention in our 2022 life:
I have seen so many of my clients grow in asking for help and discovering new depths of their resiliency as they’ve navigated setback after setback and come out on the other side. And I LOVE that this list points to our success being tied to how well supported we are by the people we love.
After some time, a teammate came and sat down next to Mikaela. Someone came to support her and sit with her in her shock and pain.
We all need people to sit with us and we need to be people who sit with others.
So, I encourage each of you to reach our to someone in your support system and tell them how important they are to you. And, if you feel disconnected from the support you need, reach out and let your people know you need them. And if you know someone who is sitting on the side of the course, heart-broken and immobilized….sit down next to them.
None of us can do it alone.