We went home for Christmas, and it felt familiar again.
Like we were getting back to the way things used to be.
For almost two decades, we've tumbled out of the car and into winter at your family's farm.
We hunker down and spend time doing nothing and everything with your loved ones—who are now my loved ones, too.
Things have changed since those early years, when we could join the grown ups for coffee in the dining room and take long naps after devouring leftovers.
It wasn't just the arrival of kids and the interrupted meals and disjointed sleep they brought with them.
It was losing the one who orchestrated and delighted in the chaos that made it different.
And all the years since, watching you try so hard to make it matter for our children, have bruised and filled my heart.
We've always been of the same mind: home is where you come from, where you grew up, where the memories are free of the constraints of adulthood and all the weight that it can bring.
We talk about your home, my home.
Our parents share similar histories. They landed in new places and built homes, with nothing more than suitcases and the determination to see it through. We've swapped stories about lying in our beds listening to the rise and fall of their struggles, when we were supposed to be asleep.
We both want our kids to think of home as the place they spent time with us, the place we built for them with our own determination. I know they've heard a lot of rise and fall, as we've tried to make that happen.
But I hope this will be the place they feel compelled to return if they need comfort.
Do you remember the night we sat side-by-side on the green couch in your off-campus house? We were so young, and we were having one of those foolish love moments that we laugh at now.
No matter where we end up living, you said, I want to end each day with you.
Student loans, cost of living, raising children, and all the weight of adulthood forced us to depart from that promise.
There was a need for someone with your training in the place you call home. A couple of days a week. A familiar community. A second source of income, while I stayed with the kids.
I knew it was more than the money, or I figured it out eventually.
I know I was sure by the time you told me about standing at the window of your office and letting your eyes search for the last place you saw her—the hospital where you had to let her go.
You said, I don't know why I do it.
Grief doesn't lend itself to understanding. It's complicated and solitary. You can share it with me, and I can want so badly to take some of it from you, but it will always be yours alone.
You've always disliked confrontation, with its violence and showiness of emotion, but this grief wouldn't let you alone. It raged upon your mind and heart. And the only way you could do battle was your own way—with a long and quiet goodbye.
For seven years, you drove there and left us behind because you had to.
You worked hard. You took your time.
And you decided when it was finally time to let it go.
You tell me not to thank you, but I do.
We saw a musician that grew up near you for our December concert.
You asked me to go and joked about closure, because it landed the week after you would last work in that town.
He was coming home to raise money for the community with this show.
I hope you felt what I did, as we sat in the chapel and listened to music lift the room.
You raised a community, too. Every family you helped, every life you changed, brought your memories closer to where you needed them to be. Away from that window and back to the home she built for you.
We sit beside each other now—more grown up than we are foolish—with a renewed promise.
I want to end each day with you.
But these years have left us too wise to let it end there.
And when we can't,
we hold on until we can.