I’m here visiting the life you left behind, and honey you would love this spring. As if playing a harp, the wind fingers the spindly stalks of canary-colored poppies; the calendula you planted three years ago has come back for another bloom, and, this time, you don’t seem to be so present here at the ranch. Your loving fiancé, who, like all of us, still doesn’t understand why the beautiful future you imagined together was trashed, is going about his life, and he seems more calm. How any of us have survived losing you I still don’t know, and the fact that it has been almost three years seems a lie; it could have been a few months. Because the soul does not observe the 24-hour cycle that we call “a day.” To the soul, a day could be a year and a year could be a day.
Speaking about grief, today I heard someone say about a woman, “She should go to a counselor and get therapy and get over it,” but I have learned that grief and all that it brings is a lifelong process, and there is never any such thing as “getting over” anything. In the end, that kind of platitude is a value judgement. I believe that what grieving people need is quiet acceptance of whatever they are feeling and wherever they are standing, emotionally. People who are in pain need, first of all, to be affirmed that they are not inferior beings because they are hurting. I know you would agree because all of your friends have told me, one by one, how you held a loving place for them when they were at their worst.
When I walked into the ranch house last night, your fiance’s cat came up to me; you know what an important greeting that is. Petting him makes me feel a sweet wave of connection to you because you loved him and took such joy in his presence. He and I both know that we have you in common. Today he licked my thumb, special kisses.
I took the last of your things back home when I visited last year, but a few pictures of you are still around the ranch house. Looking at them, knowing that I expected to see your wedding photos there instead of your brilliant smile next to a cremation urn, is both a reminder that time is passing and that we are doing a great job with our grief and also an acknowledgement that I don’t know how any of us are managing to live without you. But live is what we are given to do, since our hearts are still beating and breath still fills our lungs.
The big metal support ring your fiancé installed in the ceiling so you could practice your silks is still there, in the room that was your special creative space to paint and dance Nia and crawl up the silks and, laughing with joy, slither down them. Looking at the ring on the ceiling, I did not cry. But I wept last night in the back of your fiance’s car as he drove us from the San Francisco airport into Knight’s Valley. The tears spilled out because in my mind’s eye I saw your car, with us in it, at your favorite stops along the way: a gas station, a coffee shop, a place to buy American Sprits, a place that would let us pee.
I read that, statistically, people who mourn have more peace of mind when they believe that communication with their dearly departed is possible, believe that they are in fact still in contact, and that is true for me. I still see your bright face, that smile that makes everyone who sees it feel suddenly warm. Some part of me still does not understand how you can be gone when my sense of you is strong, vital, alive. You are not living in California about to be married, I get that, but at the same time, you have never seemed dead to me, and I still feel like I’ve been hit with a hammer whenever a well-meaning person uses the word “died” in relation to you. If I thought you were d..d, I’m pretty sure my heart would just stop beating.
I have learned to embrace these discrepancies, the awkwardness of the grief, the way it creates an entirely different reality for me. But I don’t judge myself and I don’t judge others. I do try to steer them away from the places people go that inevitably cause me pain.
Your sister and brother and your dad, your fiancé, your friends, all of us miss you terribly, and whenever we gather together we are comforted. Maybe you are here with us, as the Bible says, when two or more are gathered….
I love you and miss you,