With apologies to the writers of saccharine sympathy greeting cards, it’s a bit of a stretch to say that good things have come of the tribulations of the last year. What nobody says about the phrase “That which does not kill us makes us stronger,” is that the “That”--this unnamed Thing that built up such character--came effing close to killing us first. It is the demon, the dragon, the thing-that-shall-not-be-named, and it is one vicious mother fucker. But if there is sliver of light, it is the fact that this thing which is so fixated on my demise has been held at bay through the concerted effort of my friends. I have no idea what I did to deserve it, but I know I wouldn’t be here without it.
I spend my days peering across a chasm now. The ground on which I stand, which is unsteady and crumbling, is all the plans we had: re-do the kitchen in the Little Yellow House, build a career as a wine maker (and an associated gig as wine helpmate), have loads of dogs, continue to debate keeping chickens (him: yes, me: no), and grow old and crotchety together. The other side is shrouded in fog and so, so far away. Between the two, the ravine is bottomless (literally, Bottoms-less), and I know that somewhere down there dwells the “That” which is trying to kill me, and I am unsure of the rickety bridge spanning it. The very thought of getting across is daunting; enough so that I’m tempted to pull the covers over my head and hide here on the raft that is my bed.
But when I do peek out, I discover a long line of people holding their arms aloft, ready to hand me one to the next to get me across. They are friends from elementary and high school, fellow college and graduate students, family members, colleagues from various jobs, people I’ve run and hiked and stretched with, people who knew and loved Mike as much as I did. Some are neighbors, and some live thousands of miles away. Some remember me as an awkward and clumsy child, while others are still coming to know the awkward and clumsy woman I have become. And though in some cases they are strangers to each other, they stand shoulder to shoulder each prepared to hold me and turn to the next in line to gingerly get me to the other side. They carry handfuls of tissues, they’ve stuffed bottles of wine and chocolates into their pockets. They bring their children and their pets to remind me that somewhere out there joy lives. They listen when I need to talk, chatter when I cannot speak, and sit companionably in silence when there is simply nothing for any of us to say.
They hold me tightly to their chests, and they whisper that they love me and don’t look down and everything is going to be okay.
They are my bucket brigade, and they are my heroes. They aver that I am brave, but I am just blindly wandering about, looking over my shoulder and wiping the mists from my eyes. They are the courageous ones, because even without knowing how heavy the weight is going to be, or how long this is going to take, they offer up their sturdy arms and backs to get me where I need to be. If I am, indeed, stronger at the end of this, it will be strength that I borrow from them.