Bear with me, please. I’ve known I’d write this for weeks and weeks. I’ve felt like I was holding my breath since 28th September when Zach called -“Well, first off, Josh is ok, but he’s in the hospital”-and this is the exhale. So, when the sadness showed up this morning I decided this was the day to let it happen. It’s meant as a catharsis for me, a point to stop and acknowledge the hurt, because I haven’t, and I know this is not what I do all that well.
I guess you never know when it’s going to hit. After all, the past two and a half months could definitely be entered into the “I’m Dancing As Fast As I Can” hall of fame- the flight to California, alternately thinking the entire trip that all would be fine or that I wouldn’t make it in time. There was that moment of panic somewhere over the North Atlantic when I was sure he was gone, and, later, the assurance that I had booked my return trip for the following week meant that, surely, by then, he would be well.
In spite of those panic-y moments, I wasn’t at all ready when the doctor told us we had three choices. Abbie was ready. Zachie wasn’t. Ben knew. It actually took my breath away, hearing that we were being asked to decide to take him off life support. It wasn’t a difficult decision: Abbie gave voice to it because they had talked about it in advance, and I knew in the deepest part of me what he would want. He was a no-compromise kind of guy, whether it was his career path, his basketball team, political beliefs or the food he ate. And, he certainly wouldn’t have wanted to live with the kind of concession that was being laid out in front of us.
So, that decision made and executed, I found myself worrying about others- Abbie, and Zach, and Ben, Jules, Max, Morgie, Lexi, Vicki, the nephews, the in-laws, the cousins. We planned the memorial that Abbie had said she would give him- one last Riot Stage show. There were rehearsals every night, lists to go through, jobs to assign, food to order. We did it, rising early each day, sitting face-to-face with our workstations in front of us at the dining room table, like dueling computers. One day, as I headed past the cabinet that housed the wine and wine glasses, for a quick visit to the bathroom before we sat down to lunch, I said, “Is it awful that I have wanted a glass of wine every time I walked past here today?” Abbie said “Me, too!” She hadn’t said anything, not knowing what I’d think. I poured us each a glass of wine to go with our lunch.
The memorial over, we felt little letdown. The Final Playlist exceeded our wishes, and the most wonderful part was everyone who worked so hard to make it happen: the Riot Stagers and other invited musicians, many of whom he had worked with for twenty years, the friends and family who brought food to feed the performers, the gathering of the old gang for the dress rehearsal- it was so special to see Bobo, Bert, Sutton, and Zach all together that night.
I didn’t realize how much all of the performers were holding it together until the first song of the memorial, chosen by Josh, and meant to set the tone for what he hoped would be a high flying show for all of us. Except, after a number of flawlessly timed comedic performances in rehearsal for “Let’s Talk Dirty To The Animals”, for almost two weeks, sweet Elizabeth totally fell apart the night of the show, just as as she started, and fought hard to regain her stride throughout the song. It was the first tears I had seen in all of the rehearsal time from the cast, and it was then that I realised it was because they were that professional. Their musical talent was certainly apparent as they worked through the arrangements before the show, but I had no idea how much emotion they were holding as they worked. It showed the night of the Final Playlist, though, in the spirited performances and in the tears that flowed afterwards.
A few days later my friend, Kate, came into town and I took her for a long weekend to experience life at The Clinic with Luke and Darin. We headed back to town and worked, nonstop, on the business of Grrls Meat Camp and other projects for the next week. Abbie was busy with the details of widowhood and beginning to work on the next year of Music Tastes Good. I had to sort through things that I had left behind in storeage, once again dwindling my possessions down as I gave away more of my past life. I do like that these things are having a new life in the homes of family and friends (like Allison).. And, in the middle of this, seven cooking classes to give that I had arranged for my originally scheduled Thanksgiving visit.
After an early but wonderful celebration of my favorite holiday, sharing food chores and stories with the family,, I headed back home to France to meet my new puppy, arriving from Bulgaria the day after I did. Then, life started here at full tilt- a photo shoot for a friend’s book, tying up ends on plans for a Grrls Meat Camp event in January, along with those things we get to do in France like wine tasting at the vintners and visiting chateaux that are open for the holidays.
So, I’ve know for weeks that writing this would be my reckoning, but i also thought it was an opportunity for a thank you to all who hugged us and helped us through the weeks since Josh died. Though nowhere near enough to express my gratitude and love, I offer a big applause to the Riot Stagers, and the Music Taste Good folks; to the people of Long Beach who welcomed and embraced Josh; to John Molina who let Josh’s dream become reality; to the friends of all my kids who have become my friends, too. It was my plan to thank everyone by name but I realize I can’t. There are too many of you, and I fear forgetting someone.
As for the family- I know we are each missing Josh in our own way, our own time. This process will be ongoing, and will change our family dynamic forever. The balance will be different, for sure. There will always be a void of enthusiasm, of love, of Josh. But we are more aware of how much we care about and for each other, and more conscientious about saying it. And, that will last.
If you would like to see all or part of the Last Playlist, Memorial for Josh Fischel, click here! Thank you Jeremy Cohen and Donovan Haney!
And, the next post will be all France and fun. I promise.