- by Albert Berkshire
“Welcome to the club.” she said. “We’re orphans, now, you and me.”
I’d never thought of my life like that. I’d never thought much about orphans. To me, orphans were kids in a Charles Dickens novel, or the unfortunate boys of Mount Cashel. The later, I surmise, would have been better off on the streets than in that horrible place.
But here we were. Two of a kind. Both, it seemed now, without a parent between us.
I don’t remember, particular details of the phone call. I think I went a little numb. We still talked – possibly for an hour or more – but the next part of the conversation when into that strange audio effect you experience in television shows or movies when everything is muted, as if a stun grenade had just detonated and left my ears ringing. A surreal state of bewilderment. You are fully aware of what’s happening around you, but you are just detatched enough to not fully remember details. A generalization of general events, if you will.
As the conversation rolled on, I suspect we had a heart to heart chat about the loss of our mothers, made easier by a fair amount of levity. She always knew when to inject some happy thoughts and quirky observations into a conversation.
When I look back at the almost 18 years we were friends – some days of friendship better than others (as all relationships go) – there were countless funny moments, and lessons on humanity. All, now, are cherished. And like all reflection when a friend passes on to the next dimension, better appreciated. Treasured, even.
From the sublime cartoon clippings that would arrive in the mail – and still adorn the refrigerator door – to the little gifts that lightened my wife’s heart, this dazzling light in our life knew just how to make a friend smile. And she wasn’t just generous with friends. She was a friend to the animals; always being the voice they did not have, and the home they could not find. She took in strays and loved them like best friends. Her husband – and partner through life – always had a sharp sarcasm for the cats that roamed their home, and his silly monikers for the animals seemed to give her great delight. But they never gave her pause. She was undeterred.
She was also ridiculously well read. Vonnegut, I believe was her favourite. Her wit was sharp. Bright-eyed with even brighter lipstick. Her heart was far too big for her body. And her sense of fashion was all her own. Perhaps the most memorable accessory was a string of pearls she liked to wear while mountain biking. After all, she was out, and she certainly wasn’t going to be seen in public looking half-put-together.
A few weeks before she passed away, she posted on Facebook a quote from 17th Century Japanese poet, Mizuta Masahide; “Barn’s burnt down – now I can see the moon.”
Her friends all knew what she meant.
Emily wasn’t a religious person. Not in the least. But just days before she died, she renewed her vows with her husband, Daniel, in a ceremony performed by a priest. And when she died on Good Friday, I looked at my wife, and in a broken smile, said, “Emily died on Good Friday – for the animals. I think she’d appreciate the irony in that.”
It was the night before before she died that I woke up to the brightest moon in memory. I felt like Em was drifting past the window to say hello to some friends. Friends she kept in that oversized, generous heart of hers.
Once the girl in a string of pearls, she is forever the girl in the moon drifting throughout the night sky, keeping pace, shining her beauty on us. Lighting the way, in the darkest moments.
There’s one less member in our orphan’s club, and one more twinkle in the sky.
Hi Ho, Emily. Hi Ho.
Albert Berkshire is a storyteller. Emily Crumback was one of his most intriguing friends, and the first person to read the final draft of his first novel – We Made A Pact. To honour a friend like Emily, you need only love an animal, read a book, or appreciate music – preferably Van Morrison. It’s all she would ever want. For a shorter, lighter, and less frequent rambling, Albert is found on Twitter @albertberkshire, and anti-socially at www.facebook.com/AlbertThomasBerkshire