Tuesday night Clay's cell phone rang about a half hour after we'd gone to sleep. At first I ignored the conversation, thinking he was being called into work, but then I realized I was hearing words like "hospital" and "lungs."
His father, Larry, who has been battling cancer for the last year and a half, was in the hospital, in crisis.
Clay hung up, told me what he knew, then lay there in the dark, silent. I put my hand on his shoulder, whispered that I love him, and waited with him.
Waiting like that reminds me of labor. It's surreal, and it seems like it will never end.
The phone rang again. Clay's mom Connie wanted her kids to come. We decided all of us would go and swung into action, tracking down flights and throwing unwashed clothes into suitcases. Sophia woke up, and seeing we were up decided to be awake with us.
About three in the morning Clay took her out of my arms and told me to go sleep. He wasn't going to be able to sleep anyway, so I might as well. And so I did.
I didn't hear the phone ring again. I didn't hear the conversation. I heard my husband crying.
It was about 3:40 and I slipped out of bed and padded out to see him, there on the couch. Sophia was curled up on his chest, sound asleep, while he sat, head back, crying. He saw me and shook his head.
"He died," he said, shaking his head at how unyielding that fact is, and the tears poured down his cheeks. He mopped his face with his sleeve, and I curled up next to him on the couch and whispered words of love.
It was such a horrible moment, when the line sliced through, separating now from when Larry was alive. But as I watched Larry's son cry for him without reservation, I was struck by the beauty of it too. Clay is a measure of the man who raised him, and love is his legacy.
Now we are here, with his family, starting the work of living without him. All six of Larry's kids were by Connie's side within nine hours of his passing. There is much loss here today, but oh so much love.