Sunday, June 20, 2010

Remembrance for a beloved husband and partner

After I read my tribute at Thai's memorial service, I had many people say they couldn't believe that I could get up there in front of the 750 people who attended and do that. I didn't see how I couldn't. I put on what Thai would have called a "kick ass" dress and did my best to honor the deep love we shared for 22 years. There are so many facets to a relationship that long and that significant, but I kept going back in my mind to that magical time when you realize you may have found "the one" with all its attendant joys and uncertainties. So that's what I wrote about:

You all know Thai as a loving father, an outstanding physician, a dedicated partner, a faithful friend and a brilliant mind. To me, he was all that, but also something unique: my husband, my co-parent, my best friend, and most of all the love of my life. I can never capture everything he meant to me, but in this time, when he is always in my thoughts, I often find myself reaching back in time to remember the very beginning of the life journey that Thai and I shared when I was so crazy in love that just the thought of him or the mention of his name turned my stomach into a mass of twisting butterflies and I couldn’t eat. Bizarrely, my body had a similar reaction during the whole unbearable ordeal of losing Thai: I couldn’t eat and my stomach was a mess.

Now the first reaction was from great joy; the second from great sadness and grief, but the physical manifestation was surprisingly similar. Somehow it brought me back, way back, 22 years ago to the very beginning of our journey together. The first time I ever saw Thai is crystallized like a diamond in my mind. It was a beautiful day and he was sitting in the hot California sun in the UCLA law school courtyard with his legs sort of crossed and half up on the table. I’m sure any of you who have been a meeting with him know exactly what I’m talking about. We had a mutual friend and she had told me she thought we’d be perfect together. Now whether that was because she truly thought we were soul mates or merely because we were both Birkenstock wearing hippies from Berkeley, I don’t know. But the moment I saw him sitting there, it was like a bolt of energy went through me. He looked up at me with those brilliant green eyes, a slight razor stubble and gave me a lazy smile. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the corresponding stubble on his legs, not being a biker, but I was a goner nevertheless.

Two days later I was taking the Santa Monica bus home when Thai unexpectedly got on. I can still see him walking towards me with his floppy brown hair, his brilliant smile and those killer green eyes. It had been his birthday and someone had given him some Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. It will surprise no one to know that by the end of the ride I knew all about the intricacies of cultivating this rare and expensive type of coffee. As he got off at his stop, he casually invited me over for a cup sometime. He later told me, he never thought I’d actually come. That was Friday. On Saturday, there I was, knock knock on his door. He wasn’t there and his roommate told me he had gone to climb Mt. Whitney with some friends and would be back on Sunday. Gorgeous, charming AND adventurous? Sunday I was back, knock knock, and this time he was there.
The rest, as they say, is history. I never (and kids this was before cell phones let you know where everyone was 24/7) ran into him just by accident on the bus even though we took the same bus for the following three years, so fate smiled on us that time. Now if you’ve ever heard this story from Thai, he tells it this way: "Kat picked me up on the bus and then just kept pursuing me relentlessly . . . " It was definitely unusual for me because I’m not an extrovert like Thai, but even in the beginning he had a way of pushing me outside my comfort zone. Whether we were taking a month long back pack trip through civil war torn Guatemela, taking the kids cave diving in Mexico, or he was convincing me to buy a boat sight unseen off e-bay, life with Thai was always an adventure.

It was also a life full of an enveloping love. When we started dating, I immediately became aware of how intensely and openly Thai loved his family. “Love you Jess, Love you Dad, Love you mom” ended every phone call. I knew right away that being the recipient of that kind of love would be a powerful and unforgettable experience. For the past 22 years it has been. Now tragically and for reasons that are far beyond my ability to make sense of the world, my sons and I have lost the physical presence of that love. But we will never ever lose the experience of being blessed by the strength of Thai’s love. Thai, I miss you so much, but the boys and I are strong and we will make you proud of us. We love you and you will live in our hearts forever.

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