This is a picture of my friend Bev. Here are three things about her. One: Bev smoked a lot. Virginia Slims. They are what killed her. Two: Bev loved to wear dresses and high heels. Sometimes even in blizzards. And, three: Bev drank Merlot.
This last detail is notable not because she drank in excess but simply because she was so singular in her beverage choice.
If we were out at a nice restaurant, Bev drank Merlot. With the Thanksgiving dinners she hosted at her house, Bev drank Merlot. Wednesday wing nights? Bev drank merlot. At dive bars and in theatre lobbies and on friends’ porches, Bev drank merlot.
Sure, in the mornings Bev drank black coffee. I assume she drank water sometimes, although I have no specific memory of that. But when I think of Bev, I think of Merlot. And when I drink Merlot, I think of Bev.
Bev drank Merlot at the beach house that she and her husband invited friends to join them at each summer. After Bev died we weren’t sure if her husband, Jay, would continue that tradition, but a few months later, when it was time to confirm the annual rental, he invited us with one caveat:
The rental period that year included August 2nd, which was Bev’s birthday. If we went to the beach house, on that night, in memory of Bev, he asked that we drink Merlot.
So we did. And it was lovely to remember Bev and tell stories about her and be together.
That’s how Merlot Night began. But over the years not everyone who used to vacation together kept going. We started our own families and went on our own vacations. Even the group who still goes with Jay each year started renting a different beach house with a different rental period that’s earlier in the summer.
But on August 2nd we still drink Merlot.
Now, Jay and friends get together at a restaurant to celebrate Bev’s birthday and drink Merlot together. And friends who can’t make it for dinner or who no longer live in the area drink Merlot wherever they may be. On August 2nd my Facebook feed fills with pictures of glasses and bottles of Merlot for Bev.
Bev died of lung cancer in 2002, yet for more than a decade her family and friends continue to remember her and celebrate her. To touch people’s lives so deeply that they continue to observe your birthday years after you are gone is quite a legacy.
That legacy isn’t about getting people to drink Merlot. The legacy is about a wonderful woman, beautiful inside and out, who we all miss. Some people drink to forget, but when my friends and I drink Merlot, we remember.
So for Bev and for anyone who has touched your life, let us raise a toast that their legacies may live on. To Bev!
Earlier this month I told this story live as a part of a salon hosted by The Plagiarists. The theme was “Legacy: What will you leave behind?”
I’ve written about Bev before in these posts:
- Green Bean Casserole: A Thanksgiving memory of a lost friend
- There was a woman reading Life of Pi at the Beach
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