After this year, I feel transformed by generosity.
As some of you know, my husband, Erik, died almost a year ago. And the ride since then has been wild and unexpected in so many ways...
Whatever I say here isn’t going to get at this unnamable way I’ve been changed by the kindness of community and the kindness of almost-strangers.
Every day is different. But something softened in me, something broke open, something felt held by others and the world in a way I never had before. There was something about receiving gifts I had not earned. I didn’t do anything to be worthy of them. They were simply offerings in a time of need.
I think I understood this year that we are interconnected. Not just conceptually. But I felt my need of others in a way I might have been embarrassed about before. I wasn’t an independent impressive person this year. I wasn’t successful or particularly capable. For a while I forgot how to drive and how to read. I was, needless to say, in a real state.
I didn’t have it in me to catch myself as I fell. And so to have others give gifts — even if I could barely say thank you… to receive even when I couldn’t summon much gratitude or the gratitude was so quiet. I remember listening to the poet, Andrea Gibson, being interviewed and she said her cancer diagnosis broke her open to feeling grateful for everything. I listened to that this summer and thought: I’d like to be like that but I’m definitely not.
I knew people wanted me to find the beauty in all of this. To become a better person through it. And for months I just thought: maybe I will and maybe I won’t. People die of heartbreak. Everything remained to be seen.
So…to be held through all that. To let the process unfold. To be given the gift of time, to find my way, has been one of the greatest gifts of my life.
I feel like I have more faith in humanity now. The word virtue means something to me in a way it didn’t before. Not my virtues but feeling into the virtues of others. Being on the receiving end of virtue.
It’s kind of bewildering. And I’m also aware that not everyone gets supported when things fall apart. For awhile, I thought I had received more than my fair share and I didn’t really know what to do with that. If I was a better person, maybe I’d declare now that I will spend my life giving back to others. But I don’t know if that’s true. I hope so. But I don’t know.
And I also hope I continue to feel this gratitude. It feels like the closest thing to grace and god and mercy and all the things I’ve yearned for. It’s hard to know what to say except thank you. And wow.
P.S. Today is Erik’s birthday. He would have been 70.