And even now, I’m guilty of taking people for granted, loving them, but not always taking time to really appreciate them. I think I’m actually better at loving dogs than I am loving people. At least, I seem to have a more accurate sense of what they need and want, and also seem to have an almost infinite supply of patience and love when it comes to my four footed friends. So when my beautiful German Shepherd passed away suddenly, three months ago, I was devastated, of course. But I knew that I had filled her life to the brim with happy dog days. She played, she frolicked, she ate treats, she got belly rubs. All the time. Every day. And that’s a comfort to me, now that she’s gone.
One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot since October, is Greg’s platter.
I’d say we give pretty nice Christmas gifts in our family. But except for the kids, we mostly try to keep it modest. Scarves and best sellers, a big box of juice oranges. Those are pretty much the norm. And then one Christmas, about twenty years ago, there was the platter.
Greg handed me a heavy package, and I couldn’t imagine what it was. When I opened it, I was somewhat stunned at what a special, lovely gift he had given me. I don’t remember what I said when I unwrapped it. But I do remember what Greg said. He said that he had been at a crafts fair, and when he saw it, he immediately thought of me, and how creative I was.
“I just thought you would like it,” he said.
He was right. I like it.
And I’ve liked it for twenty years. For a while I kept onions on it, then it was for my snacks hodgepodge. When I did a photo shoot for a column on veganism, I dusted it off and loaded it with pretty vegetables. And other times it was tucked away in a cabinet. But it’s always been there. And so has the memory of Greg’s attention, which is the greatest gift someone has to give, and one Greg gave of generously. On the annual Thanksgiving walk one year, I told him the whole convoluted plot of my first, deeply flawed novel. “Sounds cool!” he said with that smile of his. “I can’t wait to read it.”
The loss left by Greg’s parting is commensurate with the magnitude of his spirit. Which is to say, it’s huge. And there’s no right way to deal with loss. I know I’ve reveled in the many pictures of him, and I’m glad his parents are organizing a project for more pictures, and more memories to flow.
I just moved from a rather large upstairs unit of my house, into the quite small in-law apartment, so I did a considerable amount of downsizing. In imagining the new space, I knew I wanted a big picture of my German shepherd. I even paid to have it matted and framed. I love how she is here with me, standing guard, watching over me while I do the dishes.
Pictures help. Memories help.
The hardest thing about moving is sorting through stuff, and figuring out what is important, and what isn't. Asking, “What really matters?” Greg’s passing has inspired that reflection as well, in spades.
But back to the Christmas memory. Just imagine, really imagine, the mind of busy guy in his early twenties, springing for a quality gift like that for his cousin. How great a guy is that?
Greg’s entire life was made up of thousands of instances of generosity like that. He was the embodiment of the idea that it only takes a moment to really consider other people, and only another moment to show that appreciation.
A lifetime of such moments strung together, becomes a lifetime of love.
I got rid of a lot of books, clothes, cluttery things I never really needed, or was hanging on to for the wrong reasons. They say when space is limited in the kitchen, try to have things that do more than one thing. No ice crushers or melon ballers. But rest assured, Greg’s platter made the cut, and stands in a place of pride in my new, downstairs home. I think I’ll put avocados on it, or bananas. But maybe I will use it for other things, too. For marbles, or pinecones. Who knows? After all, I’m a very creative person.
I know that, because Greg Walsh told me so.