“What the Living Do”

February bogs me down. I’m so ready for spring and warmth and growth by the time February comes around. The winter also, predictably, with its brittleness makes me think about death and those I’ve lost. There just seems to be more death all around us during this time, pets and people finding it hard to survive in these months. And I think of my Aunt Judy, who has been gone for over ten years, almost every day. I have a photo of her in our guest room, so I see her most mornings there. She is a young child with a round face and curly brown hair, wearing a homemade outfit in the summer sun. I miss her. I miss the smells of her kitchen and her laugh. I will often ask myself: What would Aunt Judy do?

I have a poem that I read when I don’t want to feel alone with this loss, and it reminds me what we must do in the face of such unexplainable losses. I know this week will be all about love and heart and Valentine’s, and I’m writing about death and loss, but there is a deep love in remembrance of those we’ve lost, a deep commitment to live.

What the Living Do

by Marie Howe

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there. And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of. It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in here and I can’t turn it off. For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it. Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss—we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass, say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless: I am living. I remember you.

Aunt Judy (2)


3 thoughts on ““What the Living Do”

  1. Thank you for so eloquently expressing what we all live with each day…for we all have losses that are so painful, and slowly time reduces the pain to a dull ache. And, sometimes, on really good days, we realize how happy we are now that somehow is connected to our time with our lost loved ones…somehow each of them lives on in our lives as we carry on. And we realize how truly lucky we are that they were with us.

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