An unspeakable loss

Some winery visits you never forget. The anecdotes from John Shafer and Ken Wright. The between-sips chocolate and “are we in Tuscany?” feel of A. Rafanelli. Phillipe Drouhin’s hearty laugh while sipping Le Montrachet from barrel. The dozen laid-that-morning eggs as a “bonus” after buying a case at Papapietro Perry. The magical mystical vibe at Mount Eden.

None were more memorable than watching Emily Miner chasing after, and trying not to fawn too much over, her two adorable daughters at Miner Family Vineyards a few years back. The pride and joy she had in those girls as they frolicked around the beautifully appointed Miner caves was utterly contagious, an experience that Sandy and I immediately knew would stick with us forever.

That was only a few months before Emily started having back pains, finally went to see a doctor and was diagnosed with lung cancer. She had not smoked since taking a puff of an uncle’s cigar at age 6.

We lost Emily yesterday, and although I only met her twice, I’ve been profoundly sad ever since I got the word, occasionally on the surface and consistently in my gut.

When someone close to us dies, our grieving is often for ourselves, over what we will be without now and down the road. There’s nothing wrong with that − although I firmly believe that memorial services should be a celebration of the dearly departed’s life, with tears of joy outnumbering the other kind.

But today, my heart hurts, almost searingly, for Sofie and Calla, for Emily’s just-as-sweet husband Dave, and for the void in their lives now and down the road. My brain hurts over the unfairness of it all, that ineffable, unsolvable quandary that these tragedies inevitably spawn.

After her diagnosis Emily soldiered on, producing a truly inspiring video and continuing to represent the winery well. When I visited her last year, she had hardened − who the hell wouldn’t? − but spoke eloquently about her wines and soulfully about her family, often through gritted teeth; this hideous, insidious disease had relegated her to a wheelchair.

I couldn’t bring myself to write about that interview, certain that I could not accurately, much less objectively, put that experience to paper. I should have tried, but I don’t possess a fraction of Emily’s courage.

I have two sentiments that I share with those left behind when people move on, especially when they’re way too young. First and foremost: “Savor every friggin’ day.” And in some cases, I pass along a poem, hoping it provides some comfort at a time when any comfort will do.

A Hopi Prayer by Mary E. Frye
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet white doves in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there, I did not die.

6 Responses

  1. Incredible post, Bill. You perfectly captured the beauty and wonderful spirit of Emily. She is going to be so missed by so many. Thank you for writing this — it’s helping many of us cope with the loss.

  2. Pat Cruz

    Thanks Bill. Emily was an amazing woman and has been an insipration to me for many years, even before her illnesses. We will all be much better people for having known her.

  3. Wil Bailey

    Thank you Bill. The only jewelry I never take off is my “Emily’s Army” bracelet I got when she was first diagnosed. It started out red, but it faded to yellow after the first year. Our four year old son grabs it on at least a weekly basis and asks me “how is your friend Emily”. I haven’t figured out yet how to take it off or how to tell him. Thank you very much for this post, and I too really liked the poem. Thanks.

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