I'm still here, paging through. In the quiet I turn the luminous memories of the surprise...
When friends and loves, over thirty strong, made platters of incredible food and (the most beautiful) cakes, and gathered flowers and hung decorations. When the music infused, and those friends strung themselves elbow to elbow, like pearls on a strand, garland around a giant table and cheered loud as the blindfold came off your eyes.
And the mash of laughter and hugs and slow-motion recognition of all who came, and the blinking and hands to the face, and you really couldn't believe all this.
And the deepest loss that you always feel on this day was bouyed by such incredible love and care as this.
In your twenties, when your baby girl was gone, precious one with dark hair and eyes, with the beautiful olive skin and softest cheeks. When you held her but for a moment - the only moment in this life. And on that day under a gray wintery sky, when you knelt on the frozen earth and kissed that velvet casket, your heart tore right in two and sorrow seeped into the snow.
And in your thirties, when vows were broken and the two who loved each other enough to vow a lifetime, to hold each other close and conceive a girl who they named Carmella, after thirty-six years of memories and moments, they chose no more. And life changed. They went on, in separate ways without you. On to different lives and different loves, taking what seemed forever solid and true and wholesome with them. Parents lost, yet still living. Sorrow poured out.
And now, on that leaf-strewn mid-September day, you entered forty. With your man by your side, the boys who call you mama, and the circle of friends around that table, you stepped into the next decade. And they loved you. They hoped for you. They believed in you. They sang for you. Like a symphony of souls, each one struck a note of quintessential joy, the harmony for every note of sorrow. And the music swayed and you danced and sang and laughed. Oh, you laughed.
Then, across the room, quiet in the sea of people, your man caught your eye. The man who carries your heart as if it were his own, the one who hears the sound of falling tears, the one who helps you find your way, he smiled that deep smile with gentle eyes that looked right into your soul, and he knew. Like no other, he knew how this gathering of hearts was a gift greater than anything you'd ever known.
These friends giving amazing love.