I don’t usually go this many consecutive days without blogging, but this past week I’ve just felt very…emptied out. I kept thinking about you, and the void of creativity has been filled with equal parts ache and inspiration; all I do is ache for you, my friend Autumn, and all I do is turn and be inspired by you, Autumn, my dear friend.
Today you wrote on Facebook that your time with your hubby Dugan is no longer to be measured in weeks or days, but probably in hours. On a social network populated with fabricated videos and soapboxes built high on false pathos, you flung open the window to your raw, real life and shared the sacred with us, unbidden. Your son Paul interrupted you whilst you were tending to the guest room. Paul took you by the hand and said it was time to go take care of Daddy together.
I know you shared that sweet moment because Paul is a sage of a 4 year-old and he is, frankly, an other worldly creature. But I want you to know what we all know: he said that because he learned that from his mama. Some of us will raise children who will know how to change a tire or identify dog breeds or make sushi from scratch. You taught your son how to be a caretaker. He learned how to be a caretaker from the Olympic torchbearer of caretaking.
Some memories have faded since our first encounters in Baldwin Hall during freshman year. Even then, I still remember you were walking down the hall in your pajama pants, asking if anybody needed anything before you went to bed. Net net three years later, we were holding things down in our respective party trash dorms as RDs. The difference is that if someone forgot their key to get into your building, they would always lean over the stoop, knock on your window and wait until you came to the front door to let them in.
That’s a metaphor for who you are. When people feel left out in the cold, they know they can knock on your window and be let in to where it’s warm. To a place where you’re probably watching the Lifetime Super Sunday marathon and annotating some kind of criminal investigation brief just for fun. You probably have a pot of tea on and a ready smile. You don’t just make people feel at home–you are the burning hearth.
I scanned through old e-mails. In 2007, I was pregnant and Lovey and I were taking a babymoon to North Carolina. I inquired as to whether your place was too far from where we’d be. You wrote, “I have placed you and John in my planner in Pink gel pen…that means that it is something NOT work related and important.” We met and we laughed and you looked awesome and we ate at a diner. Dugan isn’t in this picture because he was behind the camera. He said he wasn’t an RA, so he’d be the photog.
It was around that time that Dugan was meeting with doctors at Duke. His speech was mysteriously starting to slow. When we followed up, you kept mentioning how great Dugan was doing with the appointments. The diagnosis of ALS followed. I wonder now how that was for you, what you did with those words, those three letters that carried so much weight, enough weight to steer your life in a direction that perhaps you never imagined, and yet, becoming a wife and a mother and a full-time caretaker/butt-kicker has sort of always been your modus operandi.
You might not have anticipated this life you have led with grace and fortitude for the last few years, but disease aside, it’s always been in you. You were hard-wired to fight this diagnosis that threatened to steal all your joy but instead strengthened your muscles to inspire and encourage. You always have a kind, thoughtful word even when your hubby is losing his words, even when there are no words that bring perfect comfort this side of Heaven. In November 2008 you wrote me: “PS: Dugan loves [Baby Girl’s] name because it is a good, Irish name such as his.” Dugan, in Gaelic, means dark or swarthy.
Autumn is the name of the season of harvest. It is time to harvest the blessings, Autumn. I pray that this week, all the love and kindness you’ve sent out into the universe comes boomeranging back and knocks politely on your window and asks to be let in to surround you and uplift you.
I read a blog the other day about someone leading a red carpet life. Not just walking past the velvet ropes on a high occasion, but actually walking so worthy of their high calling that they appeared to be walking on a red carpet.
You are living a red carpet life.
I love you, Autumn. You are loved and held and deeply adored.