I look at Jonah and imagine her little guy being almost his exact age. It feels like, "Didn't this just happen? Can it have been that long?", because being that he was a baby when he left his family, my mind pictures him as still being one. Then I look at Jonah and realize how long four years really is.
Ruth told me that she wanted to come throw pottery. She had never done any before, but it was beckoning to her. I think pottery does that for a lot of people. It certainly does for me. I got her started with wedging the clay; kneading it in a circular fashion to homogenize the texture and press out air bubbles. She said it was very therapeutic to work out her feelings on the clay. I laughed; my mom always said the same thing about kneading bread dough. Mom always said the madder she was, the better the bread.
I gave Ruth a beginning lesson, then let her go for it. I stayed near by and helped along the way. Though Ruth hadn't cared if a finished product would be had at the end of the night, we managed to get a little crooked bowl out of our efforts. I had her make a flat, organic shape for the top of the bowl and cut a hole in its center to create a flower vase. It might be nice, I thought, to have when this day comes around next year, and each year thereafter. She can take that little vase she made with her own hands and place flowers in it to honor Rhys.
When we were done, Ruth and I sat on the studio stairs together, which is pretty much the worst place in our house to sit, as it blocks the doorway to the rest of the house when you plunk yourself down there. We talked and nursed our littles and did the mom thing, which often feels more like the traffic cop thing. Our chatting drifted from topic to topic; our kids, our lives, Rhys. Never too long on Rhys; I think there are some places in a mother's heart that, after a while, are not fully entered too often. We stand at the doorway and look inside, but we don't really go too far in, and we don't stay long. Maybe you can call it healing. I think it is more that you realize that there will always be a place in there that hurts. That some wounds only close, but never quite heal. It is a pain you know will likely always be waiting.
We looked down at out feet and laughed at the clay splatter there. I don't really know why, but it felt sacramental in some way. Like the whole night and the talking and tears and pottery could be distilled into that one image; our clay splattered feet. I took a picture.
We took the long journey from the house to her car; long because of how much chatting we do along the way. The kids ran up and down the sidewalk in the dark giggling and chasing each other. We always take forever to say good-bye because it is so hard to figure out where to pause the stream of story telling and commentary to pick up on another day.
When I got back into the house I tidied up the studio and assembled her little vase, and then sent her a picture of it. That night when I headed off to bed, I washed my feet and legs, and it seemed more important than usual, like wiping tears from a child's face, or the dust from the picture of someone you will never again see in this life. It felt almost sacred.
At Rhys' memorial, his father, Steve, asked everyone there to take a challenge. He said he didn't want his son's legacy to be a tragedy. That he was awestruck by the number of people that had found them after sometimes years without closeness, to reestablish a connection and offer love and support. He said that is the legacy he would like Rhys to have; that because of him, lost family and loved ones would be reunited, old wounds healed, hurt feelings forgiven. He asked each of us to seek out someone in our lives that we had lost closeness to and, in honor of Rhys, reconnect.
You know what the nice thing about a legacy is? It goes on and on.
Wouldn't it be lovely to share in Rhys' legacy in your own life?
Standing at the doorway, I'm remembering our four lost little ones.
Some hurts do get easier with time.