I never saw him again, in life, that is. I see him often, though not often enough, in dreams. I never had a last goodbye. There was a viewing, but I was in the hospital, in labor with our son. I still don't know if that was a blessing or a curse. I never got the finality of farewell. But I can also always keep my final image of him the way he looked that last morning: living and bright and whole...himself.
At the funeral home, put yourself there: they ask you all sorts of horrible questions. It's not their fault, I suppose, just their job, but the questions are horrible, little needle-jabs of mundane detail. Your world is dead. The colors have drained from everything around you...and they ask you whether you like the black or the green better for the urn. The undertaker holds your hand and gives you a look of obsequious sympathy, but his hands are white and pasty and clammy and all you want to do is take the stupid urn and break it over his head. But you don't. You sit there and force yourself to make calm replies. You try to think clearly. He asks you questions for the obituary. You feel like you should write it yourself, but you can't, so you come up with lame little details in response to his prompting. He loved his family. Duh. He was excited to be a daddy. Yes. He was active in his community and his church. Sappy, worn cliches like cardboard cutouts of the truth. You met at a coffeehouse open mic night.
The obituary, when it's finished, reads like a Nicholas Sparks novel. He would have hated it. They say they'll send you a copy to go over before it prints, but they don't, probably because you were in the hospital having a baby. You see it in the paper. "Mic" is misspelled. You wonder who this "Mike" is, and why he was so open that night.
So, this is the obituary he should have had: his requiem. Sit back, because this could get long.
Centuries ago, Aaron Gabriel Huff would have been a bard. He would have sat in the corner of some noble's hall and spun stories to the music of a harp or a lyre. A peaceful man in a hall of warriors.
He was a perfectionist, particularly in his art. He never took the easy rhyme, and lazy songwriting always bothered him in others because he was so ruthless with himself about it. He would agonize for days over one line. We were a good fit that way.
He had deeply held convictions, both spiritually and politically, but he never forced them on anyone else.
He worked hard. He laughed often. He had no poker face whatsoever.
E.M. Forster said:
"We cast a shadow wherever we stand... Choose a place where you won't do harm -- yes choose a place where you won't do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine."
That was him. He wanted so much to never cause harm, to brighten rather than shadow the lives around him. He spent his life standing fast in the sunshine.
He was an idealist with a veneer of cynicism. He was a romantic with a shell of bravado. He was a swirling whorl of humanity with a flame at its heart and a cool exterior.
We were both avid fans of the British detective, in books and film. He was a sincere devotee of Sherlock, but he wanted to be Lord Peter Wimsey...and in many ways he was. That reference will register with only a few of the people reading this...but he would have liked that too.
He loved to make people laugh, and was not at all hesitant to tell stories that made himself look ridiculous in order to do it.
He was more than just excited to be a daddy. He was elated.
If he was here, he would be so proud of his son. He would play music for him, carry him around on his shoulders, teach him to play baseball and cheer on the Yankees. He would tell him about all the best comic book plot-lines, read to him from Shakespeare and Tolkien, teach him to call Justin Bieber "Poor Meatbag". He would have been an amazing father.
He was an amazing husband.
We had our difficulties, our bad moments, our financial woes, our misunderstandings. What young couple doesn't? But we were happy...happier than most, and our last year together was as close to perfect as you get. I'm holding on to that.