Ten years ago Michael left, and love grew.

Clouds eyes. Terry and I walk the beach (8/21/16).
I took this picture at the place we put Michael in the sea.

Today is a special day. Ten years ago Michael passed on.

This morning when I woke, I smiled. No tears. I feel grateful.

My first thought was for someone I love.

My second thought was for someone I love.

And then, as if I created my own gratitude feast, I remembered so many others who were there for me this day ten years ago, and since. Because I’m aware that I’m not alone in my life experiences, that all others experience loss and joy, I understand that you likely know people like this in your own life.

So…

Is there someone in your life who no matter how many times you ask to be held and listened to is there every single one of a zillion times as if it’s the first time and most important moment, and that you know he’ll be there for the next zillion?

Have you ever found yourself looking at your daughter, and all at once see her as a child, sibling, spouse, mom, aunt, cousin, sister, friend, and teacher? You know—for a moment you get a glimpse into what it looks like for a human being to have unfathomable love, willingness to learn, strength to persevere, humility, and an ability to accept life in all its marvel and messiness. Have you ever seen your own child like this?

Have you ever paused for a moment when you do something of merit and think of someone you really care about, someone who married and loves your daughter and their sons, and remember with gratitude and joy to dedicate that merit to him?

Sometimes do you stop whatever you’re doing because you remember that there is someone who was there for you on the hardest day, which was probably her hardest day, too, and somehow she took the lead? You know, like looking up at geese in formation flying a rigorous route north and she sees a need to take the apex of the arrow despite wind shear. And then she holds the apex for a long, long time, even letting a tired bird fly on her back. Do you know someone like this?

Do you know someone who would respond to an unexpected death of a loved nephew in his home and then, unable to reach the parents, attend to what needs to be done as if that nephew is his own child?

Is there someone in your family who has a blend of tenderness and strength, someone you want to hug and hug and hug who no matter how much of a shit a cousin can be, loved him, and feels he is her guardian angel?

Have you ever had a moment when you remember calling a friend asking her to drive you to the airport and that friend is at your door five minutes later, silently holding your unbearable sadness with grace and a comfort that carries over year to year?

Do you know someone who has the ability to sit quietly with loss? Like a friend who sits with you the day after your son dies and a few days before your son’s funeral saying nothing except when you say, “I don’t know if I can go to his funeral,” and she replies, “You’ve lived your hardest day. Every day from here is easier. You can do this.”

Is there someone in your blended family who during an unexpected event steps forward and says, I can help, and she does the work of organizing a funeral?

Do you ever look at your children, and even though you’re not married to their dad anymore, feel so much gratitude for that relationship because of those precious children?

Do you sometimes experience overflowing best-thing-everness when you hear stories about what others love and see in the people you most love? Or you're at a memorial like my son's and through their eyes you hear the kind, silly, fun, loving things he said or did and feel so grateful for their stories?

Are there listeners and teachers in your lives who know when to hug, when to offer another perspective, when to show up, when to let you wrestle with angst, and when to send messages that they love you to bits and are there for you?

Have you ever realized that you probably didn’t adequately thank the people you work with when something happens that meant they needed to step-up and into doing their job and a little bit of yours for as long as is needed?

Have you ever had a remembrance long after someone took responsibility to do a task you couldn’t do, like make and pay for a flight, and then realize that you forgot to thank that nephew?

Have you ever received a book that holds teachings that reach out from the pages and somehow help your heart soften when you feel yourself growing bitter and angry and years later begin studying with that teacher?

Do you ever think how fortunate you are to have siblings who have shared your childhood and understand in a way no others do?

And then, do you think about the gift your sibling's children are to your children and how working with these family relationships is practice for relating to families everywhere?

Is there a person who when you feel horrible, finds and says while hugging you, "You're doing great," and because it's her and you feel her love, you wear that mirrored message with a bit more bravery?

Are there people in your life who when life dips dangerously deep, write cards and messages to you, and then you realize that for over 57 days straight, someone wrote to say "I see you"? Have you had this experience?

How about this, I wonder, do you have people who on the anniversary of an event are there to creatively say, "I'm here," or "I remember"? 

Do you know people who, because you decided to show yourself in all its muddiness, ask you to be with them because they know you'll listen and hold, not fix, their hurt? Has that happened to you?

Have you ever been part of caring groups who know how to hold the good and the awful, and listen, and be, and listen again, and again, and again, and sometimes call you sweetie, love, dearheart, honeybun, or Sue?

Have you had the experience of finding a friend who in some inexplicable way becomes a conduit of connection and opens you to wonder about the energy of love, and then somehow you feel like you hear the wind talking or something like that?

Have you experienced the death of a child only to discover that he lives on? And then to discover that as he lives on and grows inside of your heart, his love also grows inside every being he ever touched and every being that person ever touches, and yes, on and on? That legacy is so much bigger than passing on a family heirloom? 

Do you think about death as an awareness of life, and like me, begin to realize the preciousness of knowing that your legacy is love?

And then this, do you think about things you learn from relationships?

I do. 

Here’s one.

I’ve learned that when a relationship (people, places, things) ends there is an opportunity to use my pain and all the difficult feelings to deepen my relationship with life—to be with whatever life brings

It might appear that my practice living with this thought has improved my life. Maybe it has, though I no longer face and feel pain or joy to better myself. It works for me to think of my life experiences this way:

“A difficulty visits? Use it to be awake to life itself.”

And live.