“As You Wish”

Anyone who’s watched The Princess Bride knows what this phrase means.  The kids and I had it carved onto Lynn’s grave marker.  It took nearly a year after she passed to get permission from the church that runs the cemetery where she’s buried.  They didn’t understand why we wouldn’t want to chose something more conventional—wouldn’t we really prefer a passage from scripture, like everyone else?

No, we wouldn’t.  They didn’t understand Lynn.  And they didn’t understand the significance of “As you wish.”  Thank god for Lynn’s dad, Lynn Henry, who was on the church board at the time.  Exhausted from fighting for months, and facing a crescendo of rumbling from friends and family, I finally called Lynn Henry.  After a few well-placed phone calls, he got permission to put the words on the marker.

But that’s not what this is about.

I don’t post much about Lynn on social media and such.  Not at all, really.  I worry sometimes folks think it means I don’t care about her or her memory.  On the contrary.  My memories of life with Lynn are deeply important, but also deeply personal.  I talk about her a lot with the kids—all of the kids, in fact.  The Garcia ones included.  And Lynn comes up in conversation nearly every day between Lori and me.  So many times I’ve sat at my keyboard thinking I would send a little tidbit about her into the electric ether, but I’d stop for some reason.  Maybe I wasn’t ready then.  Or maybe I just wanted to hold these thoughts close to my chest a little longer and share them one-on-one with folks in person.  I don’t know.

When I tell people the story of Lynn’s life and cancer battle and passing, one hundred percent of the time, their first reaction is, “You need to write about that!”  I scrunch up my face a little.  “I write about her all the time,” I tell them.  “There is a bit of my life with Lynn in literally every piece of my work.  How can there not be?”

But that’s not what this is about, either.

This past weekend, Lori and I headed up to Minnesota for a baby shower for our daughter, Sydney, and her husband, Evan.  Our second grandchild—a little boy—is coming at the end of April, and we got a chance to celebrate with friends and family.  My family, but also Lynn’s family (who is still my family, too).  There was a lot a remembering and a few tears shed.  It was a great and affirming celebration of life and love.  Because, as Lori pointed out, “Now there’s a baby.”  A new bit of Lynn made flesh coming into this world.

It’s also fifteen years since Lynn passed away.  Fifteen years ago today was her last day on Earth, when we gathered loved ones at her bedside one last time for their final goodbyes, then stood vigil until Lynnie took wing and flew to the heavens.

The convergence of these two things caused a stirring in me for days.  It wasn’t upset, but it was something.  On top of that, all weekend I could feel Lynn’s presence, which is odd because Lynn doesn’t hang around a lot—at least not with me.  It’s nothing bad.  It’s just what she wanted, for me to move on with my life.  She was adamant about that before she passed.  So, though she’s often in my thoughts, I don’t feel her “near me.”  Other people do.  Lori, for example, feels her presence a lot.  Other people talk to Lynn and pass along messages for me, but Lynn gives me space.

And she doesn’t show up my dreams.  Until yesterday morning.

In my dream, Lori and all our kids (and grandkids) and I had just arrived at this small cluster of cabins for a family vacation.  The place was beautiful and serene, with a small lake just down a rolling hill, not fifty yards from the cabins.

When we stepped into the cabin we thought was ours, it was too small.  There was no way we were all going to fit into this tiny space.  The lady who managed the cabins popped in and apologized and said, “Oh, no no no!  No worries.  This isn’t yours.  I’ll show you your cabin.”

She walked Lori and me to the most exquisite cabin on the property.  It took our breath away.  We walked in, and everything about this place was perfect for us.  It was us.  There was plenty of room for the whole gang to rest and play and gather and have a wonderful time together.  Lori and I couldn’t help it.  We laughed, giddy at our good fortune.

The caretaker lady left, and Lori went to explore.  But I was drawn to a door off the kitchen.  A door to the backside of the cabin.

I went outside, and the lake lay before me.  Calm and blue and beautiful.  The perfect sun glistened off the water, and the only disturbance was a fish jumping.  To say “hi” and welcome us, it seemed.  Birds chirped happily, and wind caressed the leaves overhead.  It was a warm day, but the kind of warm that feels so right that it doesn’t feel like weather at all.

I could have stayed there forever.  But there was a stone path before me, winding its way down the hill.  Something compelled me to take the path.  Like a silent beckoning.

I didn’t get more than ten yards or so, when I found Lynn.  She was standing on the path, waiting for me.  It wasn’t Lynn when she was young.  It was Lynn with short hair, more like she looked toward the end of her life.  But healthy.  And glowing.  I mean, really glowing.  Vibrant and full of…well, life.

She was smiling at me.  Anyone who knew her knows that when Lynn smiled—really smiled, when she was really happy—it was a singular expression.  It was a whole-face affair.  It was one of the most pure expressions of joy you’d ever have the pleasure of witnessing.  This was the smile I was greeted with on the path.

Lynn didn’t close the gap between us, and she didn’t speak.  She simply turned and looked up the hill.  I turned to see what she was gazing at.  It was our cabin, with all the kids joining Lori inside now.  They were lugging stuff in, but also taking time to “oooh” and “ahhh” at the place.  Everyone was excited.  And everyone was so very, very happy.

I looked at Lynn again.  She was still smiling, but now her expression was serene.  She took a deep breath and let it out, as if to express satisfaction at a job well-done and completed.

Then I woke up.

Fifteen years ago today, we said goodbye to Lynnie.  But she lives on.  In us.  In our family.  In this new life about to join us.  And in a million little things every day.  That’s what this is about.

I don’t know what else to say, other than I am grateful she finally visited yesterday to share in the celebration of this past weekend.  And to say thank you.  And, of course, “As you wish.”