Wednesday, August 22, 2018

10 THINGS I MISS ABOUT CRAIG...




 1.    Foremost, I miss Craig’s unconditional love for me, which was both romantic and practical. I knew in my heart, because of his actions and his words, that he wanted only my highest good. We told each other we were loved every day. 

2.     I miss the security he brought to my life. I always felt safe with him. If we were apart I knew that if something went wrong, if I couldn’t, he would come take care of it…and never begrudgingly. I’m not ashamed to say that, at times, he was my knight in shining armor.
 

3.  I miss his strength, both emotionally and physically. He was a rock…of good character, spiritual wisdom, faithfulness, and courage. Physically, Craig did not have a ripped body, but he was all muscle (well, not all :), and would lift a car off you if pinned. Many times, he would carry or lift something that seemed impossible…like the lawn mower out of a wet ditch with me still on it! And those powerful hands…wrapping around mine every time we walked together. And most of you can testify about his bear hugs…or handshakes!


 4.    I miss our true companionship (a phrase from a Marc Cohn song that we adopted as our own). We could and would talk for hours with one another about anything and everything. We loved each other’s intellect, and the transparency and vulnerability we cultivated in our marriage.

5.     I miss his examples of loyalty and generosity towards friends, family, work and co-workers, and any organization he was part of. He was truly a faithful man.


6.       I miss the nicknames (new ones practically every week), the notes we left each other, the film quotes, the inside jokes, the silliness that would overtake us at times, the pillow talk, and the “making fun of all the weird people.” (an inside joke)

7.       I miss his kisses – small pecks on the cheek and passionate lip-locks, as he would call them. He was a really good kisser!

 
8.       I miss his “can do” attitude. I now realize he was the fuel behind almost every spark of inspiration either of us had. I will need to learn to be my own incendiary device going forward.

9.       I miss his encouragement. Craig’s full-time job early on was to remind me I was not as deficient as I thought I was. He often verbalized how grateful he was for my gifts and talents…and in the end I began to believe him.


10.   I miss how his mind worked. He taught me new ways to look at things. He was strategic – in everything from buying a refrigerator to playing a board game to voting in a primary election. It’s why he loved baseball I came to understand. He solved problems. He negotiated deals. He built bridges…and never burned a one.


WHAT DO YOU MISS ABOUT HIM?

 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

SYCAMORE, NO MORE

As I sit here half asleep, half awake, a fog is descending. Or rising, I’m not sure which. Or maybe it is just the rays of light exposing what was already there; last night’s settled dew seeping out from the leaves and petals and feathers of sleeping birds. 


This morning before dawn, the barren, leftover bulk of a once-magnificent sycamore fell, crashing so hard it woke me from sound dreaming.

While the faint light held, I stood before the stripped-down trunk, marveling in my slippers at a great many things. How was it still mostly intact? See how it landed neatly in a clearing beside a 50-foot hemlock and a taller tulip poplar, taking very little with it. What sounds had it made right before the full uprooting and collapse? Had there been the slightest breeze, or the extra weight of a woodpecker that caused it to surrender to the pull of the earth?

I thought about how many squirrel nests it housed high in its branches year after year. And I thought about the poem, When Great Trees Fall by Maya Angelou, shared by a friend just a few feet from this fallen sycamore during my husband’s second Remembrance Gathering. That tree, like my husband, was in its prime twenty-seven years ago when we bought our home. Over the last ten years it kept shedding its glory one limb and one branch at a time. Then with no warning, like that other horrible, groggy morning in August, the tree fell; and a great soul also died.

This landscape, this yard, will always be changing and adapting. What is in the shade will eventually be in the light. What was planted in the sun will someday flounder in its absence. Lives, like the kingdoms they inhabit, come and go, remembered for two or three generations, then a name on a page of history. But still, there must be a great journey from this ever-shifting world, where splinters from falling branches can pierce our hearts; someplace where it is cool and perfect under the blazing sun.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Craig’s Remembrance 2018: The Day After



The clean cups and paper plates are stacked together, the dirty ones bagged up in the trash, and the floor vacuumed. That’s all I’ll do for today because I’m tired of tasking and the weather is so nice I refuse to stay inside. So, I am sitting by the tent in the canopied yard, surrounded by a ring of green and six empty chairs, only five of which I own. Something always gets forgotten and left behind. I am processing last night’s wonderful, rain-free evening spent with twenty-five or so of our friends.

We remembered Craig Allen Steffen, as I threw out baseballs with his best traits written on them. Through stories, we collectively called to mind what was good about Craig – his generosity, his compassion, his strategic thinking, his spiritual and practical wisdom, his love, etc. – and his not-so-good occasional road rage.


We remembered, in unison, that Craig was faithful, capable, strong and solid. So fittingly, I unveiled this Rock, which will forever sit on our property. We dedicated it to him by raising a toast with some of his homemade wine.

For months leading up to the Remembrance, I kept trying to think of a tree to plant as a memorial to him. Nothing seemed to pop out as representing Craig. About three weeks before, I was having a quiet morning on the deck, running a list of trees and their characteristics through my head one more time. Suddenly these words barged in and interrupted my thoughts: “Craig is a Rock.” My eyes widened, and I think I may have said out loud, “That’s true!” He was certainly my rock; the one I counted on for wisdom and practical support. And he was certainly a rock for others, always being called up to help and get the job done. He was who you reached for in a crisis. Even the origin of his name is crag, which is a jutting rock.

 

We also honored him with poetry or just simple words from our hearts. I started the time of sharing by reading a poem by Jan Richardson, entitled The Blessing You Should Not Tell Me, from her book, The Cure for Sorrow. Part of it reads:

"Give me instead
the blessing
of asking about him -
how we met
or what I loved most
about the life
we have shared;
ask for a story
or tell me one
because a story is, finally,
the only place on earth

he lives now."
Greg Belliveau shared the poem When Great Trees Fall by Maya Angelou, which was very moving. And Adam Nyberg read a poem by a poet from his home country, Sweden, entitled, In Motion, about the journeys we are all on.


When you host a gathering of people, often your mind is focused on the details – does the water jug need refilled, is the BBQ burning in the crockpot, are there enough chairs? I wish I could have spent longer time with each and every one there, sharing even more personal stories of Craig between us. But as the evening came to an end and we were sharing our good-byes, I heard other stories of meaningful connections; connections made between friends who didn’t know each other before last night; or re-connections that held tinges of nostalgia and healing. How beautiful. How Craig.


One friend said the gathering felt like a family reunion. It did. As someone who recently discovered he had multiple families, I think Craig would love that description of those who came together to honor him and his life.

 Elizabeth & Adam Nyberg
 Andrea Sharing
 Barb & Darlene
 Dan & Kerry
 Julie & Darlene
 Greg & Meg
 Greg & Rob
 Kate & Andy
 Keith & Rennes
 Kerry Sharing a story of Craig

The week before the Remembrance, it rained everyday or was steamy and wet, so I was not able to create the "look" I wanted to unveil. A few days later, when the weather was cool and breezy, I went out to landscape the boulder. Five wagon loads of rock and two bags of mulch later (still need one more!), I was done. Craig loved to feed people, and he was an excellent cook. So, in the spring I will hang an Oriole feeder from the pole. In summer, a hummingbird feeder. And in winter, a suet feeder. My goal is to create a bigger rock garden containing rocks that friends would like to add, and one that has the quote inscribed on it from Craig's book:

We journey forward without fear...