Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the passing of my nephew, Zac. It is still so surreal to acknowledge that fact. Tomorrow he would’ve celebrated his 41st birthday. He was the only son of my sister, Manette, who passed at age 57 five years ago. That too is still difficult to process.
We often wonder how we will handle tragedy and loss in our lives. I no longer wonder. In the past year and a half, I’ve lost Rich, Zac and now my father, Jack, for whom I am making arrangements that seem to zig and zag almost daily. Add to that mix add the loss of my youngest brother Matt in 2005.
Most days go by – BAU – Business as Usual. I am fortunate to enjoy good physical and sound mental health and to be ensconced in an extensive genuine support system comprised of my new community in the South, a caring network of my former communities, relatives and those I’ve only met on-line through my writing and blogging. Their presence offers steadfast encouragement and support at all hours of the day and night.
With the recent passing of my dad, it fell to me to clean out his room at a local Assisted Living Facility, the last place I saw him and sang to him his favorite song, I Had a Hat When I Came In, one last time. As I go through his items I recall so many special moments; Rich and my dad were very close and going to stores and restaurants with them created so many good memories. They enjoyed life and loved to have fun together. I can for example, recall the day when they bought similar Hawaiian shirts at a local store here in Georgia and Rich made my dad buy pastel colored shorts which was a big deal. The sales clerk found them highly entertaining.
I found those items the other day and they definitely did not go in the Salvation Army pile, although many other fine items did. Among them I found gifts to my dad and Rich from Zac. These memories with their accompanying emotions are multi-tiered and when you experience multiple losses, especially of those who are the pillars and foundation of your life, it can be overwhelming at times, especially during holidays.
Zac accomplished so much at a very young age. A Wilhelmina Model in New York City, he was the original Tommy Hilfiger Boy, modeled for Esprit and The Gap and was part of a photoshoot for Vogue with Naomi Campbell. He was an accomplished builder and carpenter, working at sites including the rebuild of the World Trade Center and Citi Field, the Mets ballpark and later graduated an accomplished chef from the prestigious Institute of Culinary Education in NYC. He had dozens of adoring friends and relatives and loved all animals, especially dogs, including Ozzy, an emaciated stray that he and his girlfriend, Aleli, rescued from the streets of Mexico and brought with them when they moved back to the East Coast.
I helped raise Zac in his early years after my sister and Zac’s dad, Jim divorced. My heart goes out to Jim for the loss of his first born son, and for David who was a good Step Father to Zac. Later, I’d return to Hackensack from Manhattan to live again with Manette and Zac after the passing of her then-room mate. Those memories of living with my sister and her son have an enduring and special place in my heart.
Today, I received a new refrigerator as I slowly “restage” my home and make it truly my own. In cleaning out the old one, I found the last of the Limoncello Rich loved to make. It was enough for two “shots”. A special friend and I toasted Rich on the occasion of Memorial Day, and all those who have left this world but still live on in our hearts and minds. Have a peaceful and reflective Memorial Day weekend.