I had planned on writing this week about my recipe for the simple pasta salad, which I brought to a wonderful potluck barbecue on Saturday night, where we hung out with new friends, met some amazing roller derby girls, and sat around a backyard fire as a summer evening slowly set around us. Simple, good times.

But something unexpected happened on Sunday. I woke up early in the morning to a text message from my sister, saying that her ex-boyfriend (and the father of her son, my nephew) had committed suicide late Saturday night. He was a difficult person, in all our lives, someone I had a lot of trouble feeling anything more than animosity and resentment toward, but you never wish for this sort of ending. He left behind not only my two-year old nephew, but his two children from a previous marriage, now 13 and 11, a boy and a girl who we spent a Christmas with before things started to fall apart. I am so sad that they will never know their father when they grow up, and that my little nephew might not have any memory of him at all.

This man’s death is tremendously confusing for all of us. Suicide is necessarily confusing — are we sad for him? Relieved that he is at peace? Regretful at his choice? Angry? — but it’s especially confusing when, in life, he had exhausted nearly every last ounce of goodwill and charity from his friends, family, and roommates.  It’s hard to keep giving and loving someone when they reject goodness. It’s hard to describe him fully. But how do you mourn someone like this? Someone you might have wished would disappear, on many occasions?

In any case, the leftover pasta salad did play a part in this, too. Awoken in the early morning, shocked and saddened and confused, my first instinct as we ran to get dressed and drive over to the house to join my parents and my siblings was must bring food. The universal gesture of mourning. When in doubt, ready food is always welcome. I brought the rest of the huge green bowl of pasta salad, leftover from the barbecue the night before, and it was much welcomed by my family as we tried to go through and figure out this perplexing, confusing, saddening, anguishing turn of events together.

(You can click the photo to visit Flickr and see my recipe for this. It doesn’t seem right to type it out here when I’m writing about something so different in scope and emotion.)

My other contribution for the day was to spend a lot of time with my young nephew when his mom had to go take care of some things, and his grandparents were busy with other tasks. I read him his naptime stories as we snuggled down in his bed together. He fell asleep so peacefully, it was quite a blessing on an otherwise difficult day. Right as he was falling asleep, he turned to me and in his toddler-speak told me the same phrase he’d been repeating all day long, insistently, blue sky up up up. His eyes were half-closed and immediately after, his breath fell into the calm patterns of sleep. As near as we can tell, he wanted to tell us all about the blue sky that is up above the clouds, which you can see through the many skylights in the house. It was a comforting sentiment to hear, however cliche to get wisdom from the mouth of babes. If there’s nothing else solid in a mass of confusing emotions and thoughts, I know I’ll remember those words from that day.

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