The ABCs of Loss

When people we love die, we move on with life, because we have to. The closer they were to us, the longer it takes. But eventually, life’s dailiness takes over: we set the alarm each day, pour cereal, prune shrubs, feed the cat.

But the absence casts a shadow, the colors of things are ever changed. In some small way, the beloved person sticks around. The names I can’t bear to delete scroll by on my phone occasionally, when I’m searching through the Ms and the Bs. A fall sweater I enjoy wearing, of a cool slate-blue shade, belonged to a friend, now gone. And every morning I see Melissa’s laconic embroidered sign in Hal’s bathroom: MANROOM. SEAT UP. It never fails to make me smile.

As of this weekend, there’s a new reminder, a little piece of Melissa’s creative energy that will begin fanning out into the world via her many parent-friends, their kids, and those of us with a big streak of kid inside.


Click to buy on Amazon


What better tangible symbol of Melissa-Dukeness to send out into the ether than a rock-n-roll primer for music-loving parents and kids? She’s there, on every page: a creative spark realized, a touch of ironic hipsterdom, full-on daughter-love and supermomness, a perfect-pitch aesthetic.

Paging through the book sends a flood of hipstamatic snapshot images across my mind: Melissa on roller skates at her 41st birthday party, Melissa belting out flawless Ronstadt (“Different Drum”) on the back porch one rainy night, Melissa first unveiling the new bold-as-shit tattoos on her forearms at our kitchen counter.

Life goes on, but not as it should. She should be showing me another crazy new tattoo and gearing up for her yearly gingerbread city construction project. (Did it meet codes? Accrue property taxes?) She should be launching another wildly ambitious project like “The ABCs of Rock” and actually seeing it through.

All that being impossible, I’ll have to focus on my gladness that Melissa’s book made it into the world. It’s a little piece of immortality to add to her loveliest and most important legacies, Nola and Lula. I hope they’re proud of their mom. Because I sure am.

I won’t get into my own complicated feelings about losing Melissa. I did that on what would have been her 42nd birthday, and you can read it here, if you like. Instead, I (for some reason) feel like posting Elizabeth Bishop’s poem about losing, the one we all read in high school. Something about the tone of it feels right for my state of mind this morning.


One Art  by Elizabeth Bishop
The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied.  It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.


3 thoughts on “The ABCs of Loss

  1. Tears galore, but so well but…thanks Kim. To know how loved she was and is. I miss her so very much, but as you so eloquently said…life does go on and I feel richer and blessed to have had her in my life. Love ya.

    • Thank you, Delores! I think of her every day, and I imagine it is the same for you–if not every minute. Love to you.

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