A little over a year ago, I received an unexpected package in the mail from someone I barely knew. Amy Reece had heard about our situation and her impulse was to send a gift, a warm and snugly gift, a creamy blue pashmina which I wore today. Since then, there have been many gifts of kindness from people we know well, some whom we barely know, and some whom we hadn't heard from in years. One such came through last week, a letter from Alexandar Randall V, whom we first met in the 1970s and whom we haven't seen since the late 1990s. With his permission, I'm excerpting the letter, omitting all the truly personal material, including many observations Alex has about Jeff and about Jeff's and my life together. I'm posting the letter for a simple reason. It's an example of what helps after someone dies, in this case a little more than four months after my spouse has died.
Thank you, Alex. (NB: Alex is often credited with having conducted the first act of ecommerce through the Boston Computer Exchange, the very early bulletin board system that he started with his wife, Cameron--"Camie," see below--Hall, who died in 1998.)
I waited to write. When my wife Camie died, it seemed that everyone had words of condolences and joined my grief for the few days immediately after her passing. Yet I was still mourning weeks later and by then I was all alone. So I waited to write when the throng has finished sharing your grief – so I could be here for you when you are more alone...
...I observed when Camie died that there was no one left who shared our mutual stories. There was no one with whom I could say “remember that day in Spain at the Sherry festival” and have her nod and remind me of the rhythm of the drummer in the dances. Or “Remember when we were still doing the business in the living room…” and have her remember the buy and sell cards.
Because we were together 24 hours a day at work and at home, our whole history was a shared history. My deepest loss as the loss of the mutual memory, the shared stories. There is no one else who shared it all and with her, I felt as if my memories had been removed. I lost my stories when I lost her. I can remember but there is no one with whom to share the memories. I assume you are experiencing just such a loss now....
Someone came to me after Camie died and said “She has given you a new life. You may not have asked for it but you have the gift of a new life.”
Jeff has given you a new life. You may not have asked for it, but you got it! You will have new adventures, new projects, new working partners and more. It may not have been your life plan, but it is now.
I send you deepest condolences on the loss of Jeff and I wish you all the best as you explore the new life upon which you have embarked.
If you need a vacation sometime, please make plans to come to our guest cottage and perhaps we can roll you into a special presentation at the University of the Virgin Islands.
May he rest in peace and may you thrive in your new endeavors. Godspeed!
Alexander Randall 5th