Friday I received a very special bag of fabric. It traveled across the ocean, carried home in the luggage of a friend. Home, I say, because many of those fabrics were purchased right here in Iowa. They moved to Slovenia with their owner when he moved back. They are here temporarily, and will return to their Slovenian home reimagined, reshaped.
I didn't expect to remember him wearing them. In my mind, I expected to recognize the shirts. I knew Tomi for years, our daughters grew together, we work in the same lab, we spent so much time being family when our families were far away. But somehow, I didn't expect to remember him wearing them. To look at the pieces of fabric and see him at his thesis defense, playing ultimate Frisbee, at our friends' wedding, hanging out.
When someone dies far away it is an abstract sort of thing. I wasn't there to cry with his family, to hike in his memory, attend his funeral. The memorial service here was wonderful, but bizarre. That time with Polona was filled with our girls, and my days-old baby, and no time or space to talk about the fresh raw grief.
The grief sneaks up on me - I avoid driving by the Frisbee field, I sneak peeks at photos late at night when I can remember without distraction. I wish that I could be there for Polona and Luci, that I had more time to keep in touch. To bring up Tomi in the brevity of a skype chat seems callous. Of course they miss him, of course they suffer; I never know if mentioning him is honoring his memory or just a cruel reminder.
Now, I have his shirts. I've chosen the pattern, sorted fabrics, set a schedule. When his family comes for Christmas I will give them his quilt. I hope that they will remember him wearing his shirts, see him doing the things he loved, and remember the warmth of his love under the warmth of his quilt.