At the cemetery, a solitary cardinal sang her eulogy. Beautiful. Perfect. Heartbreaking.
Rachel loved birds, particularly herons. “I keep waiting for the heron to appear,” her husband told us later. Perhaps she is waiting too, knowing he has promised its form in a bench beside her final resting place.
“I keep waiting to feel her presence,” he added.
It is impossible to assuage grief. You can be present and bear witness, but the journey is mostly solitary. Like the heron’s.
To her funeral, I wore the turquoise beads she lovingly strung for me years ago after I told her about a dream. That was the type of person she was. Her heart, in many ways, too big for a world that couldn’t hold her here long enough.
It’s impossible for me not to compare and draw parallels between the two dear friends who have passed in less than two weeks. Both unfailingly generous and kind. Giving more than they received. Leaving behind voids not empty, but filled with their never-ending love.
They both loved birds, the beauty of words, painting their dreams, and the wild wonders of nature. While one found home in the moors of England, the other found solace on the riverbanks of New England. I am certain if they had known each other, they would have seen a bit of themselves in each other.
But I am lucky to have known them both, if even for what feels like too short of a time.
For the past week I have worn Sue’s gifted necklace, and now I wear Rachel’s. Despite grief, peace envelops me. In the raw moments of love, grace stretches the veil. I saw it today, witnessing Rachel’s strength in her daughter as she shared beloved memories. I saw it in her husband as he covered her body with dirt. If she ever doubted how much she was loved, she doesn’t now.
I, like I suspect many others, find myself regretting not having told her how wonderful I thought she was. The last time I saw Rachel, she was swimming in my pool, catching me by surprise. I remember being annoyed that I had not cleaned it, embarrassed. She, smiling in simple gratitude for its cool body while her husband worked inside.
Unlike with Sue, there was no forewarning. No chance to say what sometimes goes unsaid. Instead, I let memories filter in as they want to. And sometimes, as I do with Sue, I find myself talking to Rachel as I try to weave together what feels unfinished inside a world that feels raw, a little broken, but still beautiful.