Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.

Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life. -- Omar Khayyam

This morning I woke up and, in my delirious state, I read this quote, posted by a friend on Facebook. It is just what I needed to read, it is just what I wanted to say, after a restless night of sleep, after learning, last night, that a family member had died very tragically and suddenly.

I heard the news, on the phone, from my mother while standing in the middle of Times Square, in front of "I Love New York" sweatshirts, digital images flashing from screens, the trail of yellow taxis skidding past, and then, what? what?, not because I couldn't hear amidst all the noise but because I could not process what was being said.

And then, it seemed strange, to walk heavy with this terrible news, to sit with it on the subway, to get home, to cook salmon, to check my email, to wonder about these small, methodical, almost melodic, moments in a world that should stop turning in the instant that a life is lost so quickly and unexpectedly.

I could not know, some time ago, when I ran into Steven on the Long Island Railroad that it would be the last time I would see my cousin. I don't even remember what we talked about on that 45 minute ride. But he always had crazy stories. A wild, brash laugh.  He was straightforward, funny, candy-coated nothing. He tried to get me, who listened to dreamy singer-songwriters and old standards, and big puffy musical showtunes, to listen to Judas Priest and other metal bands. He worked harder than anyone I knew, at multiple jobs, early in the morning at one, maybe a nap, then a night shift. He was always the first person there to help or to ask what he could do if someone landed in the hospital or needed to move or needed a ride.  He loved fiercely. His family and his three girls. And all the members of our extended family and his friends.

I always remember that, when I'd visit him as a little girl and he was a teenager, I was obsessed with being allowed to go in Steven's room because that's where all the fun was happening. While I sat listening to the adults talk, legs skirting my Aunt's plastic table-cloth, his friends were in and out, loud music playing, and the door, with its keep-out sign, slamming shut and opening again.

I later learned I wasn't allowed in Steven's room because he kept pictures of naked women on the walls. Which I now find very funny. If he knew I was writing this, there would certainly be some, loud, sarcastic crack, that this, this, is the memory I choose to share? 

But there is a larger legacy, the memory of his loyalty to all his family and friends. The tremendous pride in his young daughters. And the crazy, bushy-bearded, tattooed, huge, bear-hugged love he leaves behind.


  1. So sorry to hear about your cousin - sending lots of love to you and your family <3

  2. It's always so hard when death comes suddenly. But so good to hold on to joy.

  3. The Gate by Marie Howe

    I had no idea that the gate I would step through
    to finally enter this world

    would be the space my brother’s body made. He was
    a little taller than me: a young man

    but grown, himself by then,
    done at twenty-eight, having folded every sheet,

    rinsed every glass he would ever rinse under the cold
    and running water.

    This is what you have been waiting for, he used to say to me.
    And I’d say, What?

    And he’d say, This—holding up my cheese and mustard sandwich.
    And I’d say, What?

    And he’d say, This, sort of looking around.

    “The Gate” from What the Living Do by Marie Howe. © 1997 by Marie Howe

  4. Oh, so very, very sorry.
    But even through tears, you made me smile. Naked women on the walls. Your cousin would probably smile, too, even while protesting the memory you chose to share.

    You share the memory most important to you -- that he was your big cousin, the one you looked up to, the one around whom all fun happened. You wanted to be part of his world. I'm sure you were!

  5. I'm so sorry for your loss, Melissa! Beautiful tribute.

  6. So sorry to hear about this -- but a lovely tribute you've written, Melissa.

  7. So sorry to hear about the tragic loss of your cousin, Melissa. I feel privileged to have gotten a glimpse into the window of this big-hearted man's legacy of love and loyalty through your beautiful tribute.

    As hard as it might have been to write this post, I thank you for sharing with us. My heart is with you and your family. XO

  8. The way you write, I can just picture him. Sending healing thoughts your way as you process this.

  9. What a great way to remember him, and to share how his life touched yours. That quote by Omar Khayyam really says it all. Life really is just a moment. A moment that can end any time. What a loss for you and everyone who knew him. :(

  10. So sorry to hear, Melissa. You share this so beautifully.

  11. I love the "legs skirting the plastic table cloth" -- it took me there, into my own life and my own memories. I hate that life has to remind us of death, so rudely and abruptly, to help us remember to live. Thinking of you tonight.

  12. I'm so, so sorry. I know the feel of that phone call. All good thoughts to you and your family.