For the past two weeks, I’ve been empty. Losing someone isn’t something you’re prepared for.
Ok, so this happened. How to pick up the pieces now? How to breathe, laugh at a perverse joke, enjoy a piece of decadent chocolate melting on your tongue, lie in the sun while a Corona trickles down your throat? It doesn’t seem right, ethical, possible – to just ‘move on’.
Attending to responsibilities seems like impossible feats; kids, work, cooking, cleaning – how? What’s the point, your loved one isn’t here anymore. Period.
I used to have this romantic perception of how people process losing someone meaningful to them. But this? Just absolutely emptiness. No clever words. No sense. No comfort.
My Dad died when I was 25. It was a different process than this recent one. He, a ‘beauty queen’ of sorts with his carrot juice and facial creams – had ironically succumbed to Leukemia. He wasn’t a kind or warm man, husband or father. So accepting his death was somewhat easy for my sisters and I. The only real devastation was realizing the complete waste our lives with him had been – how much more it could have been. That was a very sad thing to absorb.
However, these past two weeks were an entirely different story. One where love, and hope, and regret swarm like angry wasps around our hearts. Devastation. Total and complete powerlessness.
I’m not ashamed to say, every evening for the past two weeks, I drank. Not falling-over-Legos-on-the-floor drinking, but a few to numb whatever it was we were all feeling. I cried. I got angry. But in retrospect, I’m surprised I didn’t write, really talk to my girlfriends, run my turmoil out on the treadmill, beat the shit out of my heavy bag or paint my black feelings on a pure white canvas. I just crawled into an emotional ball – and reveled in it.
It was a storm. One that made no sense. It swiftly came raging in, took a life, then stuck around to arrogantly watch us weather the remaining pelting rain and flying debri – ripping us apart. And in the storm, we had nothing to hold onto for safety, to ground us, to ‘weather’ the pain. Each other – we had each other. But when pain comforts pain, all you really have is a puddle of co-mingled pain.
‘They’ – whatever smartass they were – said that ‘time heals all wounds’. I must agree. Just a smidge over two weeks, and I finally am starting to ‘feel’ again. I’m able to express and energize this loss into something tangible other than useless tears and empty bottles of wine.
There’s one song that hit me, the lyrics a bit meaningless, but the ethereal-then-angry melody spoke to my heart. For the first time in two weeks, I got on the treadmill, put this song on and ran. I ran hard and fully felt an emotional shift in his passing. I was able to run. I was able to breathe. I have this life – why waste it one moment more? I ran for him. I ran for what could have been, what should have been – but what can now be with the lives that I am able to still touch, to feel, to help. And I smiled. I didn’t cry. I grinned widely as I sprinted. Wherever he is, I feel him. Not his spirit perhaps, but his memories, his energy, his creativity. The body is gone but the ‘soul’ lives forever in people’s hearts, minds, work, life, family, love, and laughter – our everything.
It was nothing magical, this song-inspired-run moment. But it was a clear shift in perspective. The storm has passed, the skies opened up and my mission became clear. I AM ALIVE. Don’t waste it. Wherever this beautiful boy is, he wouldn’t want anyone to grieve indefinitely. There is shit to do. Take his memory with us everywhere and melt it into everything. Someone’s presence in this life can be so powerful, that when their bodies have left us, they end up fusing into our beings so perfectly. Never forget but never stop living.
He was a graffiti artist, among other talents, and the saying emblazoned in hot pink and electric green on his bedroom wall, ‘One Day at a Time’ has become a gift.
I love you John. We miss you. I want you to come back. But thank you, for teaching me something I didn’t fully embrace before. You’re perfect and always will be, and forever young.