No one really knows what to say. They do things mechanically, shuffling around the room quickly being careful not to disturb any memories. Their movements are robotic, eyes glazed over, and conversation shallow because they’re too afraid to say something too painful.
My brain is like a tomb, sectioned off to anything new, afraid that it will move the old memories to make room for new ones where I’ve kept you all this time. I don’t want you to fade in with the lump of memories that have all welded themselves together into one giant moment. You’re locked away safely, preserved, and never-changing. Every memory is there; I can’t risk them fading or disappearing.
I tried to make sense of it all, I asked all the questions you are supposed to, did the things you are supposed to and spoke to the people you are supposed to. I still got up and went to work every day, I made my bed and did the dishes. I took the garbage out, I fed the dog, and I went for walks and ate three meals a day. I did what I was supposed to do to heal, so why don’t I feel any better?
I packed up your things a week ago, everyone got together and laughed and cried and reminisced and shared their favorite memories of you. I kept a few things, but you had so many things, so we had to get rid of a lot of it. That was hard. There was a layer of dust over everything; you could tell that no one had disturbed anything since you left. We were all looking for the same thing.
I’m mad. I’m confused. I’m sad. I’m grieving. I’m hurting. I’m recovering. I’m alone. I’m okay. I’m destroyed. I’m happy.
I’m going crazy. And this doesn’t feel like closure.
So, I went to visit you. I sat in the grass. I placed new flowers in the pot and pulled some of the weeds. The air was crisp and light. It’s been a whole year, and that place seemed to be frozen in time. I cried a little, I spoke out loud. I had avoided this; it would make it so real, talking to the stone and the air and to, well, nothing. But, I did it.
It is like you could hear me, and I felt the warmth of your embrace wash over me and I could see the smile you always gave me when I closed my eyes. Your smile hadn’t changed, exactly the same as the one that is pictured in the frame beside my bed, on the refrigerator, and in the memorial snippet. I waited for you to say something to me, but you didn’t. I knew what you would say though, so I sat there in the grass with my eyes closed.
I’m lost. I’m aching, an ache that hasn’t left my body in months.
But today, today I’m smiling while I’m crying. My memories haven’t left me; I still remember your laugh and your smile, the way you pick at the skin around your fingernails, and how you kind of kicked the ball funny when you played soccer. I thought they were fading, but they are as vivid as ever, whirling around my mind like a kaleidoscope. And I am comforted by that.
The pain, it doesn’t really go away, but I have made room for it. It pokes out every so often, lingering around your birthday or when we hit milestones and anniversaries. You’re not here, and it hurts, but this time I don’t push it aside. I’m trying to embrace it. I’m not trying to cover it up, patch it over, or hide it; I let myself be okay with the hurt. You’re not here, but I know it’s okay to wish you were. I stopped looking for closure, I stopped comparing myself to you, and wishing I were as good as you could’ve been.
Because loss is loss, it is not something I have to learn how to understand. I won’t understand. It is, however, something I have to live with. I don’t have to be afraid that your memory will slip away or that I will lose you again because I won’t. You’re here. You are with me when I walk to the grocery store, you are beside me in my interviews, you hug me when my heart is broken, and I swear I can feel it.
The world is coming back to life, there are fresh flowers in the living room again. We talk about you openly, bringing up memories and imagining what you would say if you could see us all now. The graduations, the marriages and the new babies, and the jokes you would crack if you could see it all. It is a slow process, and there are tears some days when it is too painful to think about but I hear that is normal. My new normal.
Featured Image via tristanpaiige.