Yesterday was the Memorial soirée for Ken--my partner, husband and friend of 10 years. The day and the event can only be described as "perfect." It went off exactly as it was supposed to and was exactly what I expected, hoped for and needed in order to feel a sense of closure and to gain some perspective to figure out what my life's road map will start to look like.
I was honored to have so many close friends and family attend, and even more honored to have so many dear ones step up to share words about what Ken meant to each of them--from family to friends and even our doctor who not only came to the soirée, but told a beautiful and funny story about Ken, proclaiming him without a doubt his favorite patient. (Hey, wait! I'm still his patient. Oh well, he is definitely hard act to follow.)
The day started off on a good note. I managed to get myself to the gym for my training appointment--after pushing it back a couple of hours. I was constantly surprised about how good I felt the day would go, and little I was stressing over the details that I'd painstakingly planned for weeks. It was a day for Ken, and a day for those of us who loved him to gather, share and love each other (whether in person or in spirit.) I had a house full of Andersons, and one of my favorite memories of the day was the five us standing around the peninsula in the kitchen having breakfast, talking and goofing. It was a gentle moment that was the harbinger of a gentle, loving day.
The folks at the Annoyance Theater was so accommodating, friendly, and helpful. Once we were at the venue I felt even more secure that the day would be perfect. And it was. In every way. It's a testament to good friends and family when little details are picked up by others. I didn't have to sweat any of it. I could feel it. My "what if?" was put into stasis while "why not?" was freed up to get some leg room.
The photo below is a view of the theater space where the soirée took place. My dad is center, observing the setup, and Rebecca, a wonderful friend and the mistress of ceremonies, is to the right, prepping for the shindig. Once it began, this show played to a packed audience.
After I'd put out the call for people to speak, I outlined a theme that is most closely identified with Ken. "Why not?" And each of them--a dozen perhaps--all stood up in front of this loving crowd and shared stories that were all different variations on that theme. Each speaker was more compelling and passionate and funny than the last. It truly was a celebration of someone who touched all of us in a deep and profound way. Each was moving and heartfelt and heartbreaking all at the same time. It was a tribute worthy of Ken, and he would have been proud of everyone who braved "stage fright" to stand up and share their words. In one of the final deliveries of the event, his almost-90-year-old grandmother stood up. "I've got something to say!" she proclaimed when Rebecca was making the last call for sharing. She stood up in the second row, holding Mama Jo's (my mother-in-law) hand and said a string of the most beautiful and touching words anyone could ever hope to hear. Her courage wasn't surprising. She's rife with it. But to stand up and share thoughts about Ken and his and my relationship was mind-blowing and tear-inducing. She called us "the perfect couple." Her words, along with so many others will stand out in my memory as part of one of the happiest days of my life. And definitely a hallmark to Ken and the love we shared.
This day was a platform for me. It was a solid foundation on which to securely plant my heart--and my feet--in order to figure out my life and my future--without Ken as a daily physical presence. Securely entrenched in my heart, he'll never be far away from my life or thoughts. But this soirée was freeing. To his memory. To me. And to all of us who loved him. He won't be forgotten. That's an obvious impossibility. He's left indelible impressions on all of us--even people he never met in person. As I talked to people afterward, that notion became clearer and clearer. It's a shared loss, but more than that, knowing him was a shared experience that I know we will all take with us as we move forward.
There is something special that happens when you gather loving, creative, giving people with a common purpose. There is no discernible formula, but the result is nothing short of magic. My endless love and gratitude to everyone who has loved and supported us during the last year and a half--and always. The soirée yesterday wasn't just a tribute to Ken, but to those of us he loved and who loved him as we came together and celebrated him...and just celebrated. He would have loved seeing that.
At the conclusion of the soirée, I put together a slide show with some musical assistance from my Katie and my Craig (sister-in-law and brother-in-law seem too sterile for the relationship we share), and my dear friend Mindy. Click the link below to watch it. I know I will.