Today, he's been gone a month.
Since he died, I have lived alone through the Third and Fourth Sundays of Advent, Christmas Eve, Christmas, St. Stephen's Day, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the First Sunday after Christmas and New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, Epiphany, and the Feast of Julia Chester Emery, a badass woman of God.
I have lived through a month of opening my eyes every day to the knowledge of his absence and on my lips the lament, "How can you be gone?"
How can such a vivid being, such an effervescent spirit, such a brightness, be simply . . . gone?
And yet his presence is everywhere in this one-of-a-kind place we created together - in the art on the walls, in the stuff crammed in the cabinets, in furniture we chose, in the bricks of the patios and walks, in the spaces of the garden.
He loved the garden, and had come to love it even in its winter bleakness. He learned to appreciate how edges that summer foliage softened into invisibility reappeared to let us see the bones of the garden, the lines of the huge ancient trees, the flow of the walks and the shapes of the flowerbeds. It is easier to see the garden as a whole, to see how one garden "room" plays off against the other spaces. That's why, in winter, we would often bundle up and walk the garden and brainstorm new projects for the spring, arguing and laughing while we drew figures in the air, paced out shapes, each making the case for why this idea would work better than that idea.
As he lost weight, cold bothered him more and more, so we didn't do much walking in the last weeks when the temperature began dropping. But the ideas never stopped -- until he did.
Now the dogs and I walk the garden without him, missing him in this bleak midwinter.
In the bleak mid-winter, frosty wind made moan
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow
In the bleak mid-winter, long, long ago.
Our God, heav'n cannot hold Him nor the earth sustain
Heav'n and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak mid-winter, a stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.
Angels and archangels may have gathered there
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air
But only His mother in her maiden bliss
Worshiped the Beloved with a kiss.
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb
If I were a wise man, I would do my part
Yet what I can, I give Him - give my heart.