…. that night you came in to the store and it was one of those rare moments when no one else was there and my shift was almost over. It was your night off so you weren’t in uniform; instead you were wearing jeans and a black leather jacket. I remember it was dark outside and cold, mid winter, and you looked so good. You told me this story about doing battle on a wart on your knee and I laughed at how goofy and charming you were. I barely knew you but I knew I liked you. Your smile was so infectious.
I remember a warm summer night near a church graveyard, down in a hollow, where we watched the bats and stars appear and listened to 90s music.
I remember when you held my hands in yours and we slipped rings on each other’s fingers and vowed to stay together in sickness and in health unto death do us part.
I remember your scent.
I remember our last Monday together when you fell asleep on the couch with your head on my lap and I sat with you and read and watched you sleep.
I start a new job tomorrow and I’m part terrified and part excited. It’s quite a change from my prior job, which is a good thing all around, but it’s still something completely unknown and new which can be a little intimidating. A part of me is scared I’m going to have a hard time handling everything while still mired in a grief that leaves me in tears at random times and in a black hole of despair at others. But then maybe it will be a good thing to have some purpose and structure in my day and tasks to accomplish. Not that I haven’t stayed busy but it’s been a lonely and somewhat shiftless kind of busy. Maybe this job is just what I need to find new hope in life. For tonight I’m just going to enjoy the peace and quiet and forget that a tomorrow exists.
I feel as if my life has been divided into two time periods: Before Brian’s death and After Brian’s death. Everything is still so fresh, including the pain, that it’s hard to imagine a time when I’ll be okay. I feel so not okay. I feel like a vase that has been thrown on the floor and is now in a million tiny pieces. A lot of the time I feel broken and worthless and alone.
One of the projects I’ve been working on to keep myself busy is beautifying my porch. Brian and I spent countless hours out there, him in particular since it was one of his favorite smoking spots, and I wanted to make it pretty since it’s mostly just been functional and somewhat cluttered in the past. I put up white lights all around the porch and hanging baskets of pink and white flowers. I got new green cushions for the bench since Charlie had run off and destroyed the original ones and put out a small table and plants. Its like my little oasis now and I like to sit out there and write. It makes my sad heart happy. I don’t really know what to believe in regarding an afterlife, and some days I have a hard time believing we’ll suddenly be granted happiness in some magical heaven, but I like to think of it as being all the places we loved here. I hope with all my heart we get to be together again and I like to imagine that our heaven will have a little porch where Brian and I will sit and listen to the robins sing in the pear tree and talk and laugh and hang out as long as we like.
There was this good moment today, at the tail-end of the day, when I took Biscuit outside to use the bathroom and I just stood on the sidewalk and breathed. The night sky was black but a waning, nearly full moon hung just above the Bradford Pear tree in the front yard and lit up the darkness. A slug slowly slid his way across the sidewalk and everywhere around me was the sound of frogs. The air seemed alive with the delicate chorus of creaks and peeps from the tree frogs and deep throated wheezes from the bullfrog across the street. It was the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard. I stood and listened to the creatures call back and forth to each other and felt some of the darkness around me lift just a little.
That slice of goodness gives me hope that I can make it to another happy moment. These brief interludes are like stepping stones leading me forward out of this dark valley. Some days they are close together and others they are far apart but they continue to come and I continue to collect them and cling to them and save them up.
In this quiet moment, when night has fallen and the world slumbers, I sit and just allow myself to feel whatever it is that I need to feel. I concentrate on just breathing since that is work enough for my broken heart. And I even allow myself to entertain the thought of giving up. It’s not a thought with any intention behind it, but more a desire to just cease existing; to not have to face this empty world. Healing is a slow process, I’m discovering, and nothing can rush it. There is no shortcut through this valley, just a steady inching forward one step at a time. The sad memories haunt me, sometimes even torment me, but I want to purposefully choose the good ones. I need to remember the special moments we shared and focus on our love and joy. I don’t want tragedy to define me but I do want it to shape me into a better person. I feel as if blinders I didn’t know I wore have been lifted from my eyes and I can suddenly see and feel other people’s pain in a way I never have before. I see suffering and hurt in a new light and experience a deeper, more real empathy than I’ve ever known before. This life is incredibly beautiful but it is also so so cruel and I don’t think any of us escape it unscathed. We are all broken in some way. Every day I meet people who have lost a child, a spouse, a marriage, health, a dream. Something. And I understand their hurt in a new way. I am still coming to terms with my own loss, I am still struggling to accept that this is my life now, but I have plenty of company on this road. I know I take comfort from those who have survived great loss and are now living joyfully once again. If they can do it, perhaps so can I.