Messages to Maggie

The fire is still burning.  All that’s left of the basket that held the Messages to Maggie is the wire frame glowing red in the embers of the logs.  The ashes of the clothes she wore her Angel Day are scattered about on top.  The better place for them is in the fire than on my ironing board where they’ve sat since that day sans the time they’ve spent snuggled against my face.  My puffy, bloodshot eyes definitely reflect how tough the night was.  But despite the light drizzle, the fire is still burning.

Tonight we burned the Messages to Maggie.   It was time – seven months plus three days and exactly two days before her 34th birthday.  Why today?  Well, let’s just say it was time – for me, for her, for everyone.  Call it a gut thing. Hell, call it whatever you want.  It’s just time to let go.  Wait.  “Let go” is not quite the right phrase.  Maybe instead how about “move on”?  Oh crap, that’s way worse.  How about not labeling what is already a very tough step in a seemingly never ending process?  Yeah, that seems just about right.

This morning I made the decision that today was the day assuming a few friends could attend.  So, I started calling.  Despite the last minute invite everyone I called could make it.  No doubt I ruined a few Monday night plans but hey, Mondays are for ruining anyway.

The weather was cold and wet all day.  I feared that it’d be raining while I tried to get the fire going but it worked out ok.  It was still cold and wet but the light misting allowed me to cover the fire pit with a large trash bag to keep it dry while I built the fire.

Building the fire was emotionally rough.  It would have been much tougher though if I would have been completely by myself which was my initial plan.  I definitely felt alone in the crowd but those in attendance kept me centered.

I was consumed with a sense of ritual, with each step filled with meaning.  I moved the fire pit to where it belonged.  The bottom of the pit was wet so I carefully chose and neatly arranged some sticks to keep the fire logs away from the moisture.  Methodically I picked one sheet of newspaper at a time, crumbling it into a perfect ball until I had a collection large enough to create a comfortable nest for the logs.  I placed two logs parallel to each other and surrounded them with the newspaper balls.  Then, it was time to get the basket.

The basket had been sitting in my living room since the memorial, waiting.  I had barely touched it since that day.  It was dusty and the bottom was covered with cob webs.  But it was time.  So this afternoon, in preparation, I carefully dusted the basket, de-cob-webbed the bottom and sat with it, just for a few last minutes.  Today was its special day.

It tugged at my heart strings to carry the basket from the living room where it sat safely just a glance a way for seven months.  The fifteen feet I walked from inside to outside was slow and difficult; it weighed about 100 pounds:

Basket:  1/2 Pound
Paper: 1/10 Pound
Emotion: 99 4/10 Pounds
Total:  100 Pounds

In the seven months it sat gathering dust, the basket had been opened just once and only long enough for me to marvel at how many letters it held.*  Waiting inside sat hundreds of pieces of paper with soulful messages written to Maggie with love.  This simple wicker basket that sat in my living room for so long held a remarkable amount of pent up emotion.  Tonight, it would be set free.

* Despite my curiosity or loneliness (which I feel would have been temporarily frightened away by touching the raw emotions of someone else who also cared deeply about Maggie), the confidence in which the letters were written was never violated.

Carefully and with much, much love, I placed the basket on top of the fire logs in the fire pit.  On top I placed one mid-sized cedar log, barely fitting it all into the small pit.  More than once during the arranging of the paper/log/basket masterpiece I had to stop to recompose myself.  It was genuinely difficult to keep my wits about me.  Turns out this was harder than I thought it might be.  The simple burning of wood, wicker and paper was ripping my heart apart.  Stupid fire.

Slowly everyone inside shuffled outside into the cold.  Conversations ended at the door and we all sat in silence.  (Well, not really silence.  Niko really, really wanted outside and wasn’t afraid to voice her desire so Amy grabbed her so she could participate.) For a few minutes people gave touching tributes and messages to Maggie.  I did my part by weeping in the corner.

Finally, after much ceremony, it was time.  The fire struggled at first but then engulfed the basket with flames shooting far outside the confines of the fire pit.  It was beautiful sight albeit a little smoky.  I don’t think we could have conjured up a better display of raw emotion.  The flames danced and the messages burned.  It was traumatic, dramatic, and emotional and lots of tears were shed.

After the wicker basket was nothing more than a wire frame glowing red from the heat, most everyone left.  However, I wasn’t quite done.  It had one more thing I had to let go of.  From the ironing board in our closet, I fetched the most emotionally rich possession I have – the clothes Maggie wore the day she died.  I stood in the closet for a few minutes gathering the strength to take this last step.  After a few seconds of crying into them one final time, I rolled them up gently and placed them in the top of the fire.  In seconds they were ablaze.  So was my heart.

While I stood in the mist watching the fire for what seemed like hours, I reflected on Maggie, our life together, and all that happened.  One question seemed to pop into my head in a way that seemed unnatural, like I didn’t own my own thoughts:  Was it worth it?  What a silly question.

I thought for a second maybe Lori, who had been watching quietly from the porch, had posed the question.  So I told her straight up that there wasn’t one second I regretted marrying her sister.  Not one.  But my words didn’t seem to connect with as much emotion as the question held.

Then I realized and smiled a little.  If it wasn’t Lori asking and it wasn’t me asking, then it had to be another guest that hadn’t yet left.  Maybe one who had been with us the whole time.  To her I whispered, “Of course, you goof!  Every minute of every day!  Thank you.  Now it’s time for you – for us – to move on. Fly, My Angel, fly!”  And with that, the night was complete.

4 thoughts on “Messages to Maggie

  1. I knew this had taken place by the postings on facebook. I marveled at the picture that Lori had posted. Even though you had no choice in all that happened previously, you had this choice to decide when you would be able to “Let Maggie fly”. I admire you Chris.

  2. If I touch
    near the fire
    the impalpable ash
    or the wrinkled body of the log,
    everything carries me to you. ~PN

    This short verse is what I envision of that day. You were truly blessed to have Maggie and you will always carry her in your heart as we all will. Thank you for sharing this day with us. With love and friendship.

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