Lincoln's Party

A week and a half ago we held Lincoln’s party. About 60 of us, family and friends, gathered on a day when it finally rained, a day washed clean and clear of smoke and that awful, oppressive, our-world-is-burning dread. It was a day of weeping skies, a day when, surely, the earth softened and sighed with sweet relief. 

I had worried so about that day, about all the people travelling from far away to be with us, about all the goodness and kindness and unselfishness I could never— can never— return in kind. There is too much and they are too many. I worried about what they might need from our party and did not know if they would find it here, with us, that day. I hoped. I hope.

Two good men spoke about Lincoln, spoke their sorrow and their laughter and their wisdom and their honesty, and mostly, their friendship. They raised no pedestals but gave clear-eyed, loving honour to one of their own, the lost boy whose wandering, narrowing path took him away from them, and all of us. And hard as it has been, and oh, it has been hard, these long years of losing him, they have always held him in their sights, held him close. I listened to them and thought how much of who we are, is measured by who loves us. He is measured large. He was loved by the best of friends.

One summer, in another life, Lincoln rode his bicycle from Paris to Istanbul and I tucked a poem in his pack, a poem about how bound together we were, despite the not-inconsiderable differences between us, a poem to remind him that no one loved him like me, a poem to make sure he came home. I have a memory, I think it is a memory… perhaps it was a wish…that he phoned me from Paris when he found the poem. I think he said it made him cry…or perhaps that was a wish. It’s not a very good poem, as poems go, but my extraordinary sister, Jane, read it aloud and made it seem beautiful while my other extraordinary sister, Margaret, held me close and lent me her strength. 

Then Jane spoke her husband’s words, on his behalf, and my brother’s. Brothers by choice , if not by blood, these kind, gentle, smart, talented, men with a shared streak of doofus-ness, had little time together but formed as holy a triumvirate as a trio of old hippies could hope to be. 

Lincoln, Boyd and Bill, I think each one would have chosen this brotherhood, even if it had not found them by way of their relationships to my little sister and me. 

Our daughters made a list, a poster to be quietly read—my gracious, generous girls don’t share their mother’s love of centre-stage—that told the many ways their father showed his love and the many things they learned from him. They were, they are, the centre of his universe. They saw him with eyes much clearer than mine, much of the time. 

All of it, enough words, perfect words, not too many words for my man of few words. 

And a slide show to tell the story in pictures to equal 400,000 words, if I have done the math correctly, of a life well-lived, enviably well-lived, well-lived and well-loved, from first breath to last. Unplanned and unbidden, we found ourselves singing as that rich, happy, gorgeous man’s story unfolded in front of us. 

We rise again in the faces of our children
We rise again in the voices of our song
We rise again in the waves out on the ocean
And then we rise again.

Hallelujah. Hallelujah. 

And more:

Sweet voices surrounding our Maisie, sitting plopped on her tiny bottom, blue, blue eyes taking each singer in, by turn. 
Soul to soul. Enchantment. 

Pale mauve roses that lasted a week and smelled of spice and honey.

Blue bags and loud shorts and parachute jumps and rattlesnakes.

Hugs and tears and old friends and new.

Wine and women, my women.

And Kath and Chris. Always.

The grandkids at play, in and out, sweet and happy.

To all who came in spirit, your presence was felt.

To all who came, your presence was our grace.

Thank you. Thank you.

We rise again.

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