Two years ago today, a beloved and wonderful man died. I wrote this for him and his daughter, my oldest friend in the world, and I post it again today in his memory. I miss his laugh, the laugh that would fill rooms and call over strangers. I miss his words, his stream, his rushing river of words. I miss his whistle. I miss him. He didn’t believe in heaven, but I hope that he has found whatever rest any of us may find after this world.
It’s at the bottom of a hill, to the left and in a small valley, as you drive north on Wisconsin State Highway 23. If you come over the hill at night, you’ll see the lights in the windows, an amber glow under more stars than you’ll ever see in a Chicago sky.
The house is small. The kitchen floor is rough and unfinished, the wallpaper torn here and there. There’s a terrible Christmas clock hung on one wall because it met a need and now serves to amuse. The house smells of wood stove heat and cooking, and of the earth that washes off vegetables fresh in from the fields.
The fields belong to the house, and they rise and fall gently with the valley, rows neat, the order that people bring to nature so that they can feed themselves. It’s a farm that feeds many, and the house watches over the rows and the people working in them.
One of the people is a seven year old boy who was born on the farm, in the house, coming into the world with clear eyes and a smile that is like fresh water. He and his brother are growing here, they go to school inside the house (as their sister did until she went away to school), they play Legos here, and they eat and eat and eat. There is always a plate of something, somewhere. And if you don’t finish it, don’t worry, someone else will get around to it.
There is also, right now, today, someone dying here, the grandfather with whom the seven year old shares a name. He is 69 and after decades of housing a spirit so large it could hardly be contained, his body is all that’s left. Soon, it too will be gone. Right now the little boy and his brother play 20 feet away, and stew is made in the kitchen, and someone sits and watches and holds the grandfather’s hand, telling him, again, that he can go as soon as he needs to. That we do not want to hold him.
The house is so large, in its smallness, so blessed and full of blessing. In the middle — no, not really: In the everywhere, in all the corners and all the rooms, on the stairs, at the door, lifting a body small, or weak, spreading a blanket over a child, or a man — is a woman with long hair falling over her shoulders, her nails clipped short for they are often in the dirt, her arms spread as wide as she can get them around the world and all the everyone and the everything that she can reach.
Occasionally — not often enough — she sits with a cup of tea and lets the house shelter and bless her as much as she and it have blessed others. As one life ends, and all the others carry on.
Brett F. Moore died on March 6, 2010, at about the time that I was writing the above. I loved him, and I miss him more than I can say. I am so very grateful to have had him in my life. May his memory be for a blessing יהי זכרו ברוך