Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life. — Omar Khayyam
This morning I woke up and, in my delirious state, I read this quote, posted by a friend on Facebook. It is just what I needed to read, it is just what I wanted to say, after a restless night of sleep, after learning, last night, that a family member had died very tragically and suddenly.
I heard the news, on the phone, from my mother while standing in the middle of Times Square, in front of “I Love New York” sweatshirts, digital images flashing from screens, the trail of yellow taxis skidding past, and then, what? what?, not because I couldn’t hear amidst all the noise but because I could not process what was being said.
And then, it seemed strange, to walk heavy with this terrible news, to sit with it on the subway, to get home, to cook salmon, to check my email, to wonder about these small, methodical, almost melodic, moments in a world that should stop turning in the instant that a life is lost so quickly and unexpectedly.
I could not know, some time ago, when I ran into Steven on the Long Island Railroad that it would be the last time I would see my cousin. I don’t even remember what we talked about on that 45 minute ride. But he always had crazy stories. A wild, brash laugh. He was straightforward, funny, candy-coated nothing. He tried to get me, who listened to dreamy singer-songwriters and old standards, and big puffy musical showtunes, to listen to Judas Priest and other metal bands. He worked harder than anyone I knew, at multiple jobs, early in the morning at one, maybe a nap, then a night shift. He was always the first person there to help or to ask what he could do if someone landed in the hospital or needed to move or needed a ride. He loved fiercely. His family and his three girls. And all the members of our extended family and his friends.
I always remember that, when I’d visit him as a little girl and he was a teenager, I was obsessed with being allowed to go in Steven’s room because that’s where all the fun was happening. While I sat listening to the adults talk, legs skirting my Aunt’s plastic table-cloth, his friends were in and out, loud music playing, and the door, with its keep-out sign, slamming shut and opening again.
I later learned I wasn’t allowed in Steven’s room because he kept pictures of naked women on the walls. Which I now find very funny. If he knew I was writing this, there would certainly be some, loud, sarcastic crack, that this, this, is the memory I choose to share?
But there is a larger legacy, the memory of his loyalty to all his family and friends. The tremendous pride in his young daughters. And the crazy, bushy-bearded, tattooed, huge, bear-hugged love he leaves behind.