It seems that 5 years is a big milestone to get through when one has lost a precious love. In my healing, I knew it was coming up and I decided to go proactive rather than reactive.
I envisioned my family coming together and cooking, sharing stories and photos and laughing and crying and spreading out the grief so that it is more bearable. A monumental loss such as Zafer causes a change in course in lives. Some for the better, some for the worse.
I wanted us to make apple sauce en masse and make gift boxes to send out to the hundreds of people that helped us get through that first day, week and year in 2016. Zafer used to drink apple sauce straight out of the jar, he loved it so much. I ordered a Z stamp with stars on it to stamp on the bags and boxes as I pictured assembly line work in creating these.
It really helped me having a focus of a gathering rather than thinking of why the hell Z is not here to enjoy this beautiful spring we are having. The crisp air, the massive pollen, the diversity of birds, the redbuds, daffodils, dogwoods, that light green of the trees new leaves, the smell of grass and dirt. All the senses of spring bring me back to 5 years ago when I got the news and to the week that we held a wake for Z. It is exactly the same except the pollen is much worse.
Jess and Kaitlin agreed to travel from Arlington VA and Louisville KY to be here. No small feat now that there are babies and jobs.
Arlo and Zach decided to cook a suckling pig from Lilly Den Farm. “This family has a suckling pig problem” the girls casually say.
We wanted to keep it as small as possible so that we could really focus on the art of the gathering and that is to remember Zafer, appreciate him and also discuss his eclectic side. He has been canonized but it is fun to remember his quirky sides and some of the very inappropriate viewpoints he had.
It’s important and healthy to feel all the feelings. I’ve realized that it’s much easier to push down the grief and put it in a box. When I do that, it comes out in physical pain or embarrassing outbursts and triggers. Setting aside time to go into the memories and photos and feelings takes intention and a lot of courage. But then you move through it rather than getting stuck. And your body thanks you. So much of our feelings are unconscious. It’s a miracle that we can get through any of this trauma.
Jess came up with the idea to send out cards to Zafer’s close friends and family and ask for memories and to post using #missingZafer. We did and the stories that came in were poignant and new.
As the week approached, we made plans, cleaned the house and prepped for family. The day before our gathering, I drove to Whole Foods for a few special items. The entire day had been incredibly smooth. Some hard conversations became easy, work items fell into place and I could feel Zafer. I came around the corner at Whole Foods and there was Mystic dressed in a big orange robe. Mystic is an incredible soulful man that has performed at Death Faire a few times. He belted out “I’ll Fly Away” as the sun set a few years ago and sent chills through me. There he was and he looked at me “Can I check you out?” I told him who I was and about Zafer and that Zafer’s favorite color was orange.
He said “Honey, he is speaking to you right now!” I could feel it.
Jess drove Aidan Zafer, now 7 months old, down from Virginia. Kaitlin flew in from Kentucky.
Lyle and I went into grandparent mode happily.
It’s a different dynamic with Jess, Kaitlin and Arlo being adults. They can all cook and host, but we still fall into the old dynamics. Who is a “big” and who is a “little” is a constant theme. Kaitlin adds a wonderful mix of comic relief and sets a pretty big agenda. Jess is trying to juggle work, baby, grieving and sleep. Arlo is fabulous Uncle and amazing at cooking and cleaning. Lyle is G-pops with the top hat and takes Aidan Z on adventures in the stroller and to swing by the Bunkey. It truly takes all of us to keep Aidan Z fed and napped while Jess works via zoom.
Aidan Zafer is about the happiest baby I’ve ever seen. A huge highlight of the week and a reminder of the cycle of life.
We ditched the idea of hundreds of gift boxes and instead, Kaitlin and Jess outsourced to Fair Game and created gift crates to be sent to some of those angels that stepped in back in April 2016 to selflessly help them and this family.
Angelina and John helped Zach cook the pig overnight at their shop and Kaitlin made a small batch of apple sauce. I started the biscuits and then delegated to Ally and Kaitlin. We developed the “Zafer cosmo”. Zafer loved girly drinks whenever we went on exotic vacations. He would drink a pina colada or cosmopolitan with me…anything with an umbrella. So Ally went into mixologist mode and served up fancy drinks. Uncle Michael went by Bojangles for a sweet tea in Zafer’s honour. Z’s favorite fast food place. Grandma Anne and Melissa brought “Pup cookies”. Zafer’s beloved beat up diesel pup truck that he bought. Salad from Little Pond farm was gathered and served and we lit 5 candles for every year we have missed our boy. We read stories from afar.
We cried, but we laughed even more.
One thing about Zafer was his humour and his strong beliefs and his love for friends and family. He was unusually conscientious about connecting with people for a boy of 19. His soul knew that he was here for a short time. He made the most of it for sure.
As terrible as it is, I am grateful for our 5 year celebration of having Zafer for 19 years. I am learning that everything is impermanent and I am learning to be more present and appreciative of the moments we have here with our loved ones and on this beautiful earth.
Thank you for giving me that Zafer.