At Cadillac Ranch
I was sitting with my boyfriend Matt, in the middle-of-nowhere Amarillo, Texas with some rusty spray painted Cadillacs sticking up out of the ground en route to Los Angeles when I found out.
Deep breaths. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
My shattered illusion of hope that she would come back, the one I was clinging onto failed. I thought there was time for a miracle. Where was the miracle?
I scrolled through my text messages. E-m-i-l-y. The familiar photo in my favorites list. What was our last conversation?
We were going to see each other in a week. Maybe less. She had another cool project. She was writing a lot. She enjoyed school.
Where was the miracle?
I remembered an experience I had heard recently. It was a woman who actually died for a minute. And then she came back. But she didn't have a huge chance at living. It was possible her heart would stop permanently. Her family thought it was the end, and they gathered at the hospital. And the father, her husband, said to everyone: "If your mother lives, it will be a miracle. But if she dies, there is also the miracle of death."
Miracle of death. The phrase stuck with me. I didn't know what it meant. It didn't feel very miraculous then or on days when I'm driving and I forget and I think about calling her or texting her to see how she's doing, what other amazing new project she's thinking about.
But there is.
I saw the miracle at her memorial. All the people that gathered. Inspired words. Her writings and special objects displayed like a museum. Emily displayed. Honored. In my mind, I saw her looking at everyone. I saw her observing, interacting, appreciative. And happy.
There is the miracle that she truly does live on. Not only in the remembrance of those she loved and loved her, not only in her writings and thoughts, and experiences she taught me and others, but in eternity. I believe that. I know that.
She transitioned into something greater.
So Matt and I took the spray cans we had previously bought — blue and white — and created something for her in the middle of this nothing. On layers and layers of other spray-painted Cadillacs. "For Emily" it says. In a sky of periwinkle blue and clouds of white. Surrounded by an encircled heart. Because in that moment, it's all we could do.
And no one around us saw, no one realized the depth of my sadness. No one knew what we were doing, who we were doing it for. But it didn't matter. It became. It existed. And it still does. Probably under more and more layers of spray paint. But it's still there. Just as life layers and continues to build. More memories. More happy. More sad.
She is permanently one of those many layers. Influencing all the other ones on top and in-between, whether anyone sees it or not.
She is always remembered.
— Madeline Kleinman, May 2016
Your Name Is My Favorite Refrain
emi, I've been writing your name across the country
emi, I've been leaving you notes
emi, I saw you as the strawberry moon
last night in Wyoming
the sky was glowing
the road flowed onward
and I felt I knew
what was happening
behind the scenes
—Leah Clancy, July 2016