“Gone is always coming?” She read it off a post-it note stuck to my wall.
“Yeah,” I replied. “That line came to me in 2004 when I was a methadone counselor. A client missed her appointment because she was dead. So yeah. Gone. It’s coming. Always. In all kinds of ways.”
“That’s so cheerful,” she said and tilted her head. Smiled. Gwen is my kind of sarcastic.
“It is, in its own way.” I explained. “It creates a kind of pressure to be present. Being aware of gone coming infuses the here with a heightened sense of urgency as it goes.”
So we kissed like crazy because gone was coming; her plane would soon leave.
“So of course he’s just devastated,” my dad explained. My mind came unspooled, trying to fathom.
The trick is to genuinely know that gone is indeed coming while still throwing down and going all in. A year ago tonight I was planning a wedding: Kate and I were picking out rings and white dresses and discussing who would perform the ceremony. By mid-August she was gone; it was always coming because that’s what gone does: comes.
But we are human casualties to the extent that we permit the awareness of the way gone comes to prevent us from showing up to the here before the gone with the mad tenacious intention of staying.
And so I clutch Gwen tightly with hands that know she might always maybe turn to smoke while holding her as if I’ll never let her go. Because I believe in love. I believe in a love that breaks all the rules in a world whose only promise is the (sometimes slow, sometimes fast) dismantling of all that dares to stand fast against the gone that so ceaselessly and relentlessly comes.
“I’m calling to tell you your grandma died. She was 98.”
I bit my lip. “And grandpa? How’s he holding up?”
“Well. He’s a 97-year-old man who lost his wife of 65 years. So of course he’s just devastated.”
And who could possibly sense the coming of gone more than he? Yet he’s devastated and the reason he’s devastated is because he loved with absolute and complete abandon. He pushed all his chips to the center of the table and he went all in.
Risk it all. Hurl yourselves off cliffs. Jump! Devastation is the price of admission for a triumphant here that rages in love against the coming of gone.
Rest, Grandma Conover. Peace be with you, Grandpa. I love you, Gwen—the more impossible the better.