I had no idea you were a gift I couldn’t keep. That our time on this earth was glass, able to shatter and be swept away at the mercy of a diagnosis. I thought, in my naivety, that you would always be there for me, and I never thought about what life would be like in your absence. One doesn’t think about the grim inevitabilities of loss when their life is so full in the present. In those moments, you think that this bliss is just the beginning, just an ordinary, unremarkable stitch in the net that’s always there for you. You never imagine that somewhere along the line, that net will be snatched from under you. That those moments were so much more important than you gave them credit for.
Is there a secret I don’t know about? Is there a book that you study that equips you with all of the answers? Who do you turn to? These are the inquisitions I asked myself over and over. You were my compass, and when you left me, I got lost. Homesick. I should have asked you more questions, asked you how to go on after you. You always knew the answers to life’s more philosophical questions. I’m getting older and want to tell you so much about how I turned out. I have so many thoughts and stories that I want to recount for you, and I don’t know where to put all of them. Could I send them to you on the wings of a turtle dove? Will you let me know they got to you safely? Sometimes I imagine you already know- that you’re watching over me, your face gleaming in pride in the moments where I yearn for your soothing presence.
So many of our memories are not calcified in photographs, but immortalized in certain smells of pine and powdered sugar, or colors in a familiar sky. These are the kinder moments when I remember the good times, when you would take me to the beach or beat me at Scrabble or tell me incandescent stories from your youth. Then there are the malicious, unrelenting, stinging reminders of the sheer permanence of your loss. The chirping of birds that never ceases to translate in my mind to the cold, constant beeping of hospital machines.
Over the course of your cancer journey, I attended a thousand funerals of who you used to be, which maybe made it easier when I eventually had to say goodbye for good. After you were gone, people were skeptical around me; they didn’t know what was okay to say, like I was a clay vase prepared to shatter when confronted with the slightest push of confrontation. Flowers piled up, saying what no one knew how to convey. People found their own language to express the unfamiliar pain they assumed “must be so difficult for me.” The truth, though, was that I wanted to hear everything. I wanted all of the condolences, all of the anecdotes, all of the reassuring fragments of solaces. Maybe if I heard enough, I could string them into an equation, a definitive and solvable problem that would offer me the solution to all of the complicated, unflattering, ugly feelings I was keeping. Or maybe something a friend of my Mom’s friend would say would really click and magically let everything fall into place.
Over time, however, I have come to find comfort in the unknowing, the unsolvable. I found that it is in the quiet reflections where the real answers come. Once the insatiable seeking ceased, I discovered a reluctant peace in the knowledge that despite what happened, I will always remember how beautiful it was to love you and be loved by you.