Can you capture a kiss, in a photograph or in words?
Oh, sure, a wedding kiss is among those which can be preserved on film. The wordless whisper of a kiss can be memorialized on canvas. Auguste Rodin carved an indelible ode to the romantic kiss. But the sensation and mood and memory of a kiss may be as difficult to convey as is pain.
Our beagles begin every morning by stretching out to improbable lengths, their front paws flattened to the earth and their white-tipped tails wagging furiously from upright haunches. Their next task is to rush to open air and lift their quivering noses to take in whatever is upwind.
They pause and narrow their eyes, lifting their heads as if they are kissing the air.
I awaken every morning–sometimes outlandishly early in the morning–and my first thought, always and forever, is that Jim is not there. I find myself closing my eyes and lifting my face towards the sky as if I will find him there–as if I, too, could kiss the heavens.
But kisses still find their marks, as much as their targets may have transformed. I touch my lips to my sons’ cheeks and am always a little bit startled to find stubble. The babies whose unbearably soft skin we covered with kisses have grown into young men.
When our first daughter was born, her older brothers–themselves still toddlers–developed the “nose beep” kissing technique, possibly drawing upon a nose-centric traditional Inuit greeting. Instead of using their foreheads or noses, though, the boys would touch a fingertip to their infant sister’s button nose, quickly drawing it back as if their forefingers were spring-loaded. She would stare back with her enormous deep brown eyes as they hovered over her.
We dispensed and collected countless kisses–tucking children into bed; throwing caution to the wind to comfort them as they suffered with communicable fevers and viruses; magically healing childhood injuries; and eventually holding our sons and daughters as we all wept and tried to absorb the worst news we could give them about their dad.
And each one of us gave him one last kiss, a hand to his cheek, after his heart stopped beating, stealing the warmth from the face we loved so much.
Now we try to keep the earth below our feet, faces up to kiss the sky.