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To Prepare Is to Celebrate Is to Sparkle

Three weeks ago, I threw a small party for Kara's fifty-fourth birthday. I organized the tasks in a Google Sheet, invited a handful of family and friends, went grocery shopping, and did a bit of cleaning. I pulled out items from the Sparkle Celebration: A table cloth, table runner, tabletop easels, floor easel, program cards, slanted card holders, foam board displays. I created a Kara-themed iTunes playlist to loop on a portable speaker and printed out menus for the "Pop-up Picante Bistro," featuring Kara-themed food and beverages such as pickles, green olives, Trader Joe's baked cheese curls, and Grape Crush soda. I invited guests to try the "Kara Picante Bloody Beer Challenge," which calls for downing a pint of lager mixed with Bloody Mary mix in three gulps (sadly there were no takers). I directed incoming traffic to the side door via sparkly Kara signage.

And on her birthday, I lay out the spread, including an 8 x 10 framed giclee print of belly dancing Demon Kara glaring at patrons from the center of chips, dips, pickles, and so forth, a whiteboard holding free Kara sticker magnets, and a QR link to a book of short stories that happened to release on that same day, a collection of fantasy fiction by multiple authors, including me, my novelette "Queen of the Fire Arch" imagining Kara as a sorceress. And by 1 p.m. that Saturday, I was pretty happy with the result:

Note: I duck-taped a 2.5-lbs plate to the back of the display to keep it from blowing off in the wind!

I mention all this because as I was setting out food, pulling out chairs, and cursing the wind and rain, I realized these actions, though small and mundane, were part of the festivities. Not only that, as a private ritual, they were just as important as the social event they were meant to facilitate. They helped me to continue my bond with Kara, because they were infused with her personality and my intention to honor it. To stress out or rush through the set-up would only dampen the experience. In other words, preparation was celebration, and I could imagine Kara making all sorts of funny disbelieving faces as I added tabs to the spreadsheet, scrubbed the toilet, smoothed out the table runner... "Dude, who are you?!" And I could imagine her thinking these were all indications that I was trying to step up, that I was evolving in a way that allowed me to continue our relationship rather than accept it as an ending and detach from it.

Anyway, the next week, a friend thoughtfully asked if I would be a judge at the U.S. Air Guitar PDX contest. He had taken it over after Kara's health dipped to a point where she thought it best to end her five-year run as producer, opening act, and emcee. I agreed, and although the memories crowded over each other as I wandered through the main floor, green room, and around the stage where I had formerly served as her self-described "band manager," once the event started and I took my seat, I fell into a rhythm with my fellow judges and felt again that I was continuing my bond with Kara. Instinctively, though I had my choice of all five judges' chairs, I even grabbed the one that Kara had taken when she judged at the U.S. Air Guitar National Championships two years earlier. We also wore the same jacket that night (my dad's army jacket, talk about continuing bonds).

The point of these anecdotes is to share how I am grieving the earthly loss of my wife. Even a posture like taking a knee to weatherproof a sign with a weight plate and duck tape feels like I am closer to Kara, in the way I am sure that genuflecting in my days as an altar boy was supposed to help me feel closer to God. The simplest, minutest of rituals has the potential to expand and reestablish a relationship with a loved one who is no longer with us in the flesh. Maybe this is obvious, but it didn't seem so to me at first, despite the numerous losses I have experienced in recent years. Bonus: Practicing these acts of continuation can open the door to other losses that may have been written off or compartmentalized due to upbringing, social conditioning, practical necessity, or whatever...

For example, although my experience with my mom's estate was difficult and upsetting, to say the least, I have, after eight years of being resentful and efficient about it ("She's nothing but ashes now, let's get past this"), started exploring a continuing bond with her as well. Again though, as I said in a previous post, this is not to suggest you should seek to continue your bond with a deceased love one, or that if you choose to do so with one you must do so with others, that if you practice acts that help you feel connected to your partner, for example, you should also follow through with your verbally abusive grandfather, life-sucking codependent mother, or whoever. You get to decide when to open the door, when to leave it shut, and. when to leave it open just a crack, with no need to justify your reasons.

And on that note, although I am personally not a fan of opening the door to amateurs blowing s**t up in commemoration of the establishment of the United States of America, I am a fan of trying to connect the holiday to something with some sort of personal meaning. For myself, I will think of that time Kara and I saw Independence Day in a jam-packed theater roaring with applause at all the right moments.

Until next time.

--Charles Austin Muir

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2 comentários

Julia Meyer
Julia Meyer
06 de jul.

Charles, I love this post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences and keeping Kara burning bright for us all. Love you two ❤️ I also can't wait to read your "novelette", just got it 💓

Kara Muir
Kara Muir
3 days ago
Respondendo a

Hey Julia! Thank you! And I'm so glad you got the book!! I hope you enjoy "Queen of the Fire Arch," it's my favorite thing I've ever written. 💖

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