In the five years since my 40-year-old husband, Alberto, died of a sudden heart attack, I’ve had a recurring nightmare involving his funeral.
Specifically, I’m tasked with planning it all over again. Making the awful phone calls. Writing the obit. Delivering the eulogy. I wake in a sweaty panic that evaporates only when I remember that it’s no longer 2009.
The dream usually comes to me in the month leading up to his March 15 deathiversary: a not-so-subtle nudge to make a plan for the date. Whether it’s the first or fifteenth year since your loss, anniversary reactions shouldn’t be a thing we’re embarrassed about. Our lives were permanently altered on that date, and there’s no shame in acknowledging it. While there’s no one-size-fits-all prescription for a deathiversary, my hope is that these ideas offer a guide for making your annual peace.
Seeing your essay mentioned on the same Australian cover as Drew Barrymore is surreal. Landing a bylined, 3-page story in this publication is the stuff writers’ dreams are made of. But reading Laurie’s 500 eloquent words (click red sidebar above) about her adoptive childhood + our reunion = immeasurable prouds of the motherly kind.
So glad to see that the dates which once knocked you down so hard are now becoming a time of joy and remembrance of what you and Alberto were, of what you two are now, and will be, forever.
As Alberto’s deathiversary approached this year, I decided to spend it outside my comfort zone. I accepted an invitation to the 30th birthday party of a NYC reader who was born on March 15. Last weekend, I toasted Cesar alongside his partner and relatives, a mariachi band and several of my girlfriends.
Seeing Cesar’s face when he unwrapped the Ferragamo tie I had chosen for him from Alberto’s collection was like witnessing a kid on Christmas morning. Seeing how fiercely Cesar wore the tie for his first day of work at a magazine was like seeing a layer of Alberto re-animated.
Before the book, before the Tumblr, there was Alberto’s Facebook Timeline.
And four immediate-and-simultaneously-light-years-ago today, this was the message I posted from Havana:
To no one’s great surprise, the right place was located on the Malecón to release his ashes. And from Havana to Hungary to NYC, I’ve found him everywhere since.
On the eve of five years since the loss of you, Alberto, I spent the evening with your family.
Glimpsed your competitive spirit in your niece, who also cheats at games the minute no one’s looking.
Dined across from your mother, who de-shells clams with your absurdly dainty, two-finger method.
Sat beside your sister, whose right foot also makes endless circles on the air.
A year or three ago, an encounter with your mannerisms was the shortest route to a public display of my grief. But among your favorite people tonight, these flashes of your uncanny DNA were like an evening-long high five with your spirit.
Reading White Elephant in the Room is like catching up with an old friend…thank you for allowing your readers into your heart so completely.