You are nearby. And you are far away. Your death feels like today. It feels like tomorrow. Your death feels like yesterday. And it feels like 12 years ago or 100 or 4,000.
For thousands of years the Svaneti people high in the Caucasus mountains, surrounded by medieval towers and secluded from the world, have kept their death tradition. On the day their beloved dies, men stop shaving. On the 40th day, a bull is sacrificed. The first dish of the feast is heart and liver stew. The men cut their beards and put their hair on the table as an offering to their beloved.
There was no such tradition when you died. I grew out a hair on my chin and did not pluck it. I clutched my scalp and thrashed. I pulled my hair. I almost cut it all off when I came home from the hospital where I had been holding your hand that turned cold, but moments before it had been warm.
It’s cold now in Los Angeles. I can’t get warm.
You used to put our pajamas on the radiator in the winter so we could be warmed after our shower. We stood back to back when I was little with the water running down over us like a waterfall.
It is lonely here.
You are there. And sometimes you are here.
I wonder what you would say if you could see me. Would I still make you proud even in my missing you?
I want to cut all my hair and make an offering on the 40th day and the 400th and the 4,380th day, which is today on the anniversary of your death.
I wail and put it on the table.
I put my holy tears on the table too.
There is something else I want to offer.
It is the ineffable.
It is the joy of living life. But it just slipped through my hands and I cannot put it on the table.
Or, could it be that it is there already on the table, the light of life, the burning bush, in my wail and in my tears? For you.