Sometimes, On What Would Have Been Brian’s Thirty-Ninth Birthday

“Loss is a horrible, powerful reality of being alive. We are equipped to process it no matter how horrible.”
-Marc Maron, “I Related to the Hulk

It comes apart
The way it does in bad films,
Except the part
Where the moral kicks in.
-LCD Soundsystem, “All My Friends

The other morning, I was sitting drinking my coffee and watching Maxwell play with Brian’s old toy cars. I got to wondering, as I sometimes do, what Brian was like when he was a Kindergartener playing with these toys. Was he exasperating, as Maxwell can be? Did he sometimes get absorbed, the way Maxwell does, and forget everything besides the complicated crash scenarios he was narrating? I wonder what type of child Brian was and what type of adult Maxwell will be.

Sometimes Maxwell says, “I feel sad for you because your husband died.”

“Thank you, Baby, but you don’t need to feel sad for me,” I say. “It was a sad thing, but I’m okay.”

Other times he says, “I feel sad for your husband Brian, because he died.”

“It is sad,” I say.

Last week, he said, “I have good news for you! You will see Brian again after you die, when you go to heaven. I’ll meet him there, too.”

I didn’t tell him that I have never let myself believe that. If he can believe it, maybe it will be a comfort to him. I know that belief is a comfort to a lot of people. I don’t find it comforting; I find it scary. I have always feared the trap of trading now for later.

Maurice Sendak said, “I think the most graceful thing offered us is sleep without dreams. That is so sensible.”

Sometimes I believe that.

Every once in a while, I still write these posts to Brian, that ideal reader who almost always caught my references. I have a whole pack of ideal readers now, though. I write for all the people I love, whether they’re reading or not.

Sometimes I want to tell Brian about this life that would not have happened if he hadn’t died. I am never going to believe that this was part of some cosmic plan in which everything happens for a reason and turns out for the best, but my life is so good right now.

I’m always reaching for something, but I am happy.

I am letting to of a lot of things, but I’ll save those cars in case Lucas or Maxwell has children one day. Can you imagine? The world is full of wonders and miracles.

Sometimes I sit and drink coffee and watch my godsons play with old toys.

Sometimes that is enough.


  1. momster
    Posted June 2, 2012 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    belief is personal and we live in very dark times.If you live a conscious life (whatever that is0 in a manner consistent with your best beliefs heaven takes care of itself.You can’t get there while here.To have absolute proof of heaven is to take away the freedom of disbelief from the perspective of a deity who strives to be loved with free will by creatures he/she created and who are beloved.Here on earth,it would be far more difficult to control masses of people who believe that they will go to heaven from here.
    Anyway,I’ve been intensely missing Brian too.And I’m still stuck on,How the hell did that happen?But I end up letting that go.I have several good cries and I pray for him.I believe prayer is very powerful in all worlds.I think prayers do resonate and like all things that resonate it ripples out touching shores we know are there…and places we know nothing of.
    Maxwell and Lucas are wonderful.Most of all,I think Mr.Brian was full of wonder and curiosity.His mind was always child-like.I think most of us who knew him loved him,though your relationship was special and good.
    I’m glad you’ve made the effort to keep moving and living because that is what this life is for.I often think of Brian sitting quietly and contentedly on the porch playing with his RC car.

  2. Bri's Mom
    Posted June 2, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    I agree with Momster on the heaven issue,but each person is free to believe what ever makes them feel good.I love that Maxwell is playing with Brian’s toy cars and trucks,Brian would have liked that very much.He sounds like such a perceptive child who is lots of fun….
    As for how Brian was as a child,he had lots and lots of energy just like Maxwell,and a great imagination when he played,maybe thats because he was an only child, I’m not sure.He really took good care of his toys, that’s why he had so many to pass on to Lucas and Maxwell.If “Heaven is for Real”,Brian would be looking down and smiling.

  3. Posted June 2, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I don’t find it comforting; I find it scary. I have always feared the trap of trading now for later.

    And this is why you are one of my most cherished friends, because, growing up religious as I have, I would never have thought of this from this angle. You not only think it, you’ve thought it through enough times to articulately express it. Hope is good – but to live only for hope of later is a trap – because in this life, today is what we have. We’re meant to live as if heaven was never promised, so that it’s worth having the people we have in our lives, and finding the light here, where we are…

    Thanks for a really deep thought or sixty.

  4. adrienne
    Posted June 2, 2012 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Momster, Sorry you’ve been feeling sad, but thanks for stopping by and sharing thoughts.

    Linda, I wish Brian could have met Maxwell. I think they would have gotten along. Extra love to you today.

    Tanita, I cherish you because you are one of the people who reminds me to pay attention to now and to live fully and with courage. Let’s keep doing that.

  5. momster
    Posted June 2, 2012 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    I honor sad feelings then go about my business.
    I suppose there are folks who trade now for later.I think they are mostly the product of religions rather than spirituality.Two totally different things.I’ve studied both for decades.Right now that has led to the Book of Enoch.This is one of the books left out of the Bible,and is quite interesting in its own way.That is especially true if you can fit it into history ,multiple cultures and other contemporaneous books.All people hope.Hope is like sunlight.But you are right to pursue the present.
    And of course i share a strong belief in the freedom to believe whatever one does because that is their path.

  6. Olivia
    Posted June 2, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Adrienne, when I read posts like this, they remind me of how extraordinary you are. I always know that about you, but it becomes even more obvious at these times.

    Thank you for reminding me of the danger of trading now for later. I often do things and think “if I can just get through “whatever”, then things will be better” rather than just embrace whatever is happening in that moment. I think it’s similar to the trap of continually dwelling on the past.

  7. adrienne
    Posted June 2, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Momster, “Hope is the thing with feathers.”

    Olivia, Thanks. I have lived at times just trying to get through whatever, and it was always miserable. I’ve learned that the only difference between me being happy and me being unhappy is really just about how I choose to look at a day. If I dread it, it’s probably not going to be fun. If I run into it with my arms open, it’s probably going to be better. It might be amazing. I believe in being mindful of the future, too, of course, but in the way that helps make today’s chores more meaningful.

    And I keep asking myself questions.

    And I keep drinking coffee.

  8. Amy
    Posted June 2, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Yup, you’re my hero. I don’t think you realize how much I look up to you…you set such an awesome example for how to live life and how to be a good person. I <3 you!!

  9. momster
    Posted June 2, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    As usual,there it is.Your name would have been Emily or Adrienne and I went with the contemporary.You were exposed to great poets far too young.Now you think in deep,multi layered ponderous depths.Yet,you also think about shoes,so,meh–not too young.

  10. adrienne
    Posted June 2, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Aw, thanks, Amy. I really admire the way you and Arthur live life, too–thoughtfully and with such a wonderful sense of fun. ♥ you, too.

    Momster, :), and I’ve been thinking about rewarding myself for all this hard work I’ve been doing lately by going out and buying a new pair of shoes.

  11. Posted June 2, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    It can be both heady and terrifying to think about the other lives (as it were) that we might have experienced had significant events been different. We can write quantum physics-inspired stories about them. However, we don’t know, not truly, how things might have been different. I am glad for the good things and friendships you have experienced since Brian’s death. It doesn’t mean that “everything happens for a reason,” but that good things can move through the tunnels of sorrow and loss.

  12. Julie
    Posted June 2, 2012 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    You are an amazing person. I’m so glad to finally know you. Thank you for sharing yourself with us.

  13. Posted June 3, 2012 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    I write for all the people I love, whether they’re reading or not.

    I’ve never seen a better statement of a writer’s mission than that.

    I’m very much a “now” person. Last night, I was so impatient to begin my meal at a wedding reception that I poured the tiny cup of soup over the salad, thinking it was dressing. But you know what? It was delicious.

    I also think now expands, like a ripple in a lake, and one day, we will be able to hold an infinite number of nows in our hearts, and that might be heaven. If not, I’m still glad there are pretend cars, true love, and many, many real, right-now things.

  14. adrienne
    Posted June 3, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Farida, Yes, and I know you know about big loss. Sometimes it’s hard to reconcile being okay: part of me feels like I shouldn’t be. The biggest part of me, though, is so happy to be alive.

    Julie, Thank you, and likewise. We must hang out again soon. That needs to happen.

    Sara, I have done things like pouring my soup on my salad, and sometimes it really is just best to run with it.

    I really, really like the thought of heaven being the ability to hold an infinite number of nows in our hearts.

  15. Posted June 3, 2012 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    I spent a meeting yesterday morning doodling & pondering life instead of paying attention I felt that was embracing the moment.

    I made sure I was present in the rest of the day enjoying time with family & friends instead of thinking about what was not getting done, I felt very “Adrienne” doing that.

  16. adrienne
    Posted June 3, 2012 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Tam, I think that was probably the best way to handle that meeting, and HOORAY to enjoying the rest of the day.

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