“So much of how she experienced the world lives on in her poems…”

I had a professor in college who passed away in March, but this week was her memorial service, or her remembrance of life service. And it was just really challenging. I had both her and her husband as professors. They taught at the same university in different disciplines. And she was just a really special person, and they as a couple were really important in my life.

They were one of the first examples, really, that I had seen of an incredibly functional and good marriage. They seemed to really consistently regard each other with respect and care. They were married for 52 years at the time that she passed away. And, of course, there were ups and downs during their 52 years of marriage but um, you know the small snippet of their marriage that I saw, it seemed like they were always trying to meet each other halfway and understand where the other person was coming from and ask questions from a place of curiosity, and it was just really inspiring.

Um, you know, when she passed in March, I had written my art professor, the husband, a letter and I said something about how their marriage had been really inspirational to me and it’s how I hope my own partnership will look, you know, 52 years from now. And it made me reflect on the fact that all through high school, all of my close friends, nobody had a good marriage—nobody’s parents, I should say, had a good marriage. And um, I just really didn’t know for many, many years, for maybe even the majority of my life, if I would ever be interested in getting married. Just because I had only seen it be sort of an oppressive institution and so it just meant a lot to be able to witness their love and their marriage in such a positive way.

So we went to—me and a friend of mine went to the service and I hadn’t seen my art professor in a couple of years because of Covid. They were really wary because of her illness and just, they were older, you know, regardless of her illness, so they probably would’ve been cautious. And so I walked in and I saw him and he had a cane, that was very long because he’s very tall, kind of wrapped around his forearm like a beanstalk, which I had never seen before. They’d, like, needed to put another level on his cane because he’s so tall, um, but you know, he had this cane and he was so sad. And I didn’t mean to but I stopped in my tracks and, like, turned for a minute to like “Okay, I’ve seen enough. I’m gonna go now.”  And obviously, I didn’t. I turned around and I went in. I hugged him and I’m so glad I stayed for the service, it was really beautiful. But it was just interesting in that moment to observe myself and how my body just immediately sort of rejected the idea of, like, him growing older and this really sad thing that we were about to do and so instead it turned around and was ready to walk me back to my car. Um, but like I said, I’m glad that I stayed, the ceremony was really beautiful, I got to see their children who I’d not met before, they live out of state, and got to hear them talk about all these really great memories of their mom.

And then my friend that I went with, we met up with another friend and got some food after the ceremony just to talk more about her and remember her. And she was a poet so, so much of how she experienced the world lives on in her poems, which is a real gift and, I imagine, a comfort to her family to have that really tangible piece of her still exist. They’re actually working on publishing a book with the majority, it sounds like, of her poems. So people were signing up for that. So, you know it was one of those bittersweet times where it was really great to reflect on how special of a person she was and how impactful her life was. But it was also really sad because she was no longer with us and I was just thinking about my professor who was—I was really closer to her husband, and just how his life is so changed now that she’s gone. So um, yeah, I don’t know that I have a real adequate ending to this other than hold your loved ones close and tell people that you care about them and you know, don’t take things for granted as much as you can.

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