I see the elderly woman approaching us from across the mall. She is looking past me and at my children with that smile. My kids are at the perfect age to attract these smiles. They are just at the dawn of human interaction. Their speech is still garbled; their language and actions both aped from adults. They, in their search for the right phrase or movement, are often accidentally adorable.
Children at this age still act as if nobody is watching, and adults love them for it. We are drawn to this innocence, I think, for the same reason we are interested in the behaviors of chimps or sleepwalkers. We want to see what it is that people do when they don’t realize they have an audience. We want to see what we would do if we didn’t think so much.
She walks carefully and slowly over to accept the imaginary ice cream cone my son offers up and wins my heart by pretending to eat it. Taking the interaction a step further, she asks him which flavor it was. He tells her it’s chock-lick and her smile deepens with amusement. I am scanning her face, watching her the same way I watch the face of every stranger who approaches my children. I am waiting for the clues that all humans throw off.
I’m waiting to see why she’s doing this.
And so it is that I observe her lined face slip gradually from delight to despair. A line grows deeper across her forehead and her milky eyes fill with tears. Her painted smile is the last to go, proof in my mind that she didn’t even see the sadness coming until it was already written on the rest of her face. I realize that I am moving closer to her as her expression shifts, so that when the tears start to roll down her cheeks I am all but cradling her. She leans against me, frail yet adult-sized. I am not in the habit, anymore, of being needed by people who are not my children. It takes me a minute. I don’t know why she is crying. I only know what she needs. And I have it to give. So I hold her.
She wipes the tears away and catches her breath. “My husband of 49 years passed away 7 months ago. Seeing your children makes it hurt more. Even though they are beautiful. The holidays make it hurt more. Even though I love them.” I hold her tightly, softly offering my condolences. My son asks me why the old woman is crying, and I stumble for a second. I don’t lie to my children, but I don’t throw around words like “death” either. I tell him simply that this woman will not be able to celebrate Christmas with someone she loves.
As I say the words, my voice shakes and my own eyes fill unexpectedly. I close my eyes against the tears, while granting myself one full minute to be overwhelmed with this unforeseen grief. The woman catches me with my emotions and apologizes for making me sad. I shake my head: clearing it, emptying it. “The holidays can be hard,” is what I say as I help her right herself.
They told me back then that I needed to grieve my brother as though he were dead, but to expect the process to take longer, since he is not, in fact, dead. And although I am the type of person to tear at her flesh in hopes of getting the pain on the outside, in order to move past it, I am shocked to find that some days it is as if time has not moved at all for me.
The woman shuffles off in one direction as we continue in another. We meet up later, at the fountain, as I am explaining to my children the concept of wishing on thrown pennies. I have a wallet full of potential wishes, and so I do not need to accept those that the woman offers us. But I do accept because I sense that it will give her something to be able to give to us. I bend down, tuck my children in close. The woman steps in, and we all throw our pennies at the count of three.
You can’t wish for people to come back. It doesn’t work that way. Pennies can’t move mountains. A wish is only a goal, a direction in which to focus your thoughts. In my world, you can only reasonably wish for the things that you have some control over. So I toss my penny in and I hope, for all of us, that the future brings fewer and fewer moments when we are brought to our knees by our pain. We will carry it with us forever, and we should, because it makes us who we are and it honors where we’re from. But more and more we will be able to live with it.
The holidays can be hard. I have always known this. I push myself off my knees, smile at the old woman and grasp her hand for a minute before exchanging it for my daughter’s. We walk out into the cold air and breathe in the last few breaths of 2010. Soon there is chatter and laughter and bickering and sunshine against the cold. I rub my hands together for warmth, raising my face to the sun.
I feel strange saying what I’m about to be saying. I feel my late girlfriend’s body on top of me.
Yes, you read that right. I literally physically feel my girlfriend, even though she is no more.
Doctors haven’t been able to help me with this.
It started about six months ago. She was taken away from me in a car accident. Three days later, I was in no shape to do anything or move anywhere, and I suddenly felt her. I felt her head on my chest, her arms hugging me really tight, her feet on top of my feet.
She loved doing this. If there ever was such a thing, this was our thing. I know this was the same sensation because I could feel her hair poking my chin, like it always did. She didn’t like long hair, so she would cut it really short, and it would poke me irritatingly in my chin when she hugged me like this.
The funny thing is, I sometimes did not hug her back. Just. Just because I was irritated about something or the other. I know she didn’t like it when I didn’t, but she put up with me.
And now, I feel her arms, her feet, her prickly hair, just like before. But she’s not there.
I know she’s not there but I feel it so strongly! It comes and goes, but when it’s there, it’s like she’s back. I can see there is nothing but air in front of me, but she is the air around me. I hug the air back, and it all feels real.
I am left with so much conflict about this. On the one hand, I am glad to have her back in whatever way. But in another way, I am just grieving all the time. Because of this, I just break down and talk to her. I tell her I love her and how much I miss her. But I feel like her soul is attached to me, and I’d like to free her soul.
The love of my life chose to end his life two weeks ago today. There are no words to convey the loss and desperate emptiness I feel. He has struggled for years. I share here the words that I wrote during his last attempt, in August, as he struggled on a ventilator. I could do nothing but alternate between simply staring and listening and scribbling each moment as they came, clinging to each memory, as I feared that it would be our last.
He had threatened so many times that, sadly, the last time I saw him, I did not truly believe that it would be the last. You had to have seen the movie “Where Dreams May Come” to truly understand his final words to me.
“We are soulmates. I will always find you.”
We had a standing promise that no matter where life or death took either of us, we would find some way to find each other. This movie resonated strongly with us. For now, I digress and share my sad, almost prophetic words from my last experience as a tribute to him, as I know nothing else to do anymore but preserve and express my love for him and privately and also as publicly as possible.
I write this as I look at you. Rise and fall. Mechanical clicking partially drowned out by The Fray’s “Happiness”. I thought I had felt pain before. Well, I have. This surpasses pain. Just like “love”. I don’t know the appropriate word to convey this emotion. If I were Catholic, I suppose I would be sitting in Limbo. Joy on one side, torture on the other. Once again, these words do not fit.
I write these words not knowing if you will ever hear them. I suppose either way, you will somehow.
I have had so much to talk to you about …so much to say to you. I began it in a text, which sits unread on your phone. I couldn’t wait for today, but to be sitting here now? My heart can’t handle it. It’s laying trapped in a chest two feet from me, still keeping the rhythmic pumping and it dances with yours. For how long?
I have told you before, but I couldn’t feel it like this until this moment. I am connected to you. I can’t come up with the words to explain how. I watch my own life hang in the balance. I know that if you die, I do, too. Maybe not my physical body, but the part of me that matters.
I knew that this would be a horrific feeling, but I had no idea how badly someone could hurt on the inside. I feel like I am being turned inside out. The world stopped turning. Perhaps literally, as there was an earthquake and pending hurricane. Perhaps, the earth itself groans in pain. The sun does not shine. There is no light. It has lost its meaning.
Being separated from you before was terrible, but I could still feel you out there. You were and are omnipresent to me. You are in the air. I never comprehended that something so simple as the scent of your hair could impact me so much. Colors fade. Light is darkness. But the music, I still find you there. It is something that is somehow not taken. The emotion with it is horrible right now, but I find you there, and so that is where I will stay for now. As I listen, perhaps you are the DJ. Every note, every word somehow fits each moment. “If there is no one else beside you where your soul embarks, I will follow you into the dark.”
I would still follow you if I had a choice, but perhaps the only clarity of the moment is that I do not. I will be taken, and I will go, but I hope that we do not have to.
Perhaps, this is paraphrasing, but I believe that is was F. Scott Fitzgerald that said, “I wish I had done everything in the world with you.”
I suppose that is still possible, regardless of what happens here. The world does not end at death, but mine does with yours. And so, as I know that my journey continues here for now, I can only hope and pray that you will continue to be my co-pilot.
Somewhere between the mechanical world and the spiritual realm that surround me, it is the organic that brings me the only comfort. The rise and fall of your chest may as well be a million seaside sunsets. I catch myself drifting, lulled by the peaceful repetition of each movement.
Again, I never fathomed that something so “simple” …how quickly and unexpectedly things can gain or lose their meaning.
I made sure to eat three times today. As I am not sleeping, I need something to keep me going for you. I even got some cookies. I tasted nothing. My stomach cramped. I didn’t feel it. The road poured ahead of me. I didn’t see it.
Nothing. There is nothing but this music and the rise and fall and the feeling that I never want either to end.
I am not sure where these words are coming from. I have drawn deeper into myself than, perhaps, I ever have. My motions are mechanical. I’m not sure what is guiding my physical movements. From soul to paper, I don’t feel attached to the space between, and, as I write, it takes me further and further away.
Where am I going? What is happening? Are you taking me with you? I am coming. Wherever you are and wherever this body is, I feel myself drifting somewhere in between.
I’m not sure that these words will make sense to anyone else at any other time, myself included, but, as I write, it is all I can do.
I have been emotionally stripped down. This is as raw as I come.
I’m not sure when they will pull me from your room. It may literally take that. I don’t feel capable of leaving you on my own.
I have no concept of time. I know that a good bit of time has passed from my first word to this one, but it could as easily been a minute as a year. What does it matter?
The rise and fall. The steady rolls of your breaths and the jumps between of your heart. I may experience the beauty or profundity of such things, but, as I bear record here, it will always serve as some form of remembrance in the future, whether it is a tear on my cheek or a curl on your lips, only time can tell.
Time. Time. Even letters look foreign. Words sound garbled. I feel as if somehow I have already known you for an eternity. Or maybe it was only a second. What is time, anyway? It simultaneously means nothing and everything to me right now. As it carries on this moment, it means nothing, but thinking moments into the future make my head spin. All I have is this one, and in this one, you are here, and, for now, THAT is all that matters.
My head quickly fills with horrific thoughts if I let it ponder beyond this second. What if I never hear your voice again? What if you never even read these chaotic words? What if …blank. Fortunately, my mind has pulled me back to now. There is enough time to worry about the future if it comes to that. All that matters now is this moment and the fact that you are still in it.
My eyes draw up. In that instant, your eyes flutter open. I don’t know if you saw me. Words can’t describe what I saw. Not even now. I suppose that this proves that there truly are no words for what I feel when our eyes meet, and I think, no, I know that that’s okay. I know what I feel, and I believe that you do, too, so why waste time struggling with an explanation that surpasses words? Time. We’re back to that. I suppose the future could be worse. It could be the already determined past, and all those wasted moments.
“I want to feel you. I need to hear you. You are the light that is leading me to the place where I find peace. You are the light unto my soul. You are my movements, you are my everything. And how can I stand here with you and not be moved by you? You still my heart, and you steal my breath away. Would you take me in? Take me deeper now.”
I wrote as fast as this pen and hand would move, trying to pick up the pieces before they were laid out. I didn’t know the lyrics as well as I thought I did. Maybe that isn’t exactly what it said, but that was all that I heard.
And, now, as the physical sleepiness sets in, I feel myself being drawn back, back into this world, which somehow, stands still, suspended, and all there is is you. I don’t want these eyes to close. I fear the next thing that I see. But, for now…
You ARE the DJ! I should not have feared the next thing I saw. I looked up. Your eyes. I know that you saw me this time. I reached for your hand. You grabbed mine. I tried to adjust. Tighter. “My hands are holding you,” pour out over the speakers. I hear you, baby. I hear you.
I don’t know what is happening, but after these moments, I feel overwhelming peace. Somehow, it is okay, and I don’t know how, but it is.
I got lost in your blue eyes, your warmth, your touch, and I transcended. I’m not sure where we went, but it was not here, and it is okay. For now, at least, fear is gone. It is okay. Enough words for now. Time for some peaceful, quiet, wordless moments with you before sleep.
I am a happily married woman. I love my husband completely and am fully committed to him. We have a great life together, three beautiful children, and a nice home. I have no complaints.
But my husband is sick. He has multiple health problems that could take him away from us at any time. He could live to be 90, or he could die next week. It’s hard to know. I know that his death will be heartbreaking. Every health scare brings me to tears.
There is a very dear friend of mine who I have known since childhood. He has been there for me through thick and thin. In our younger years, there was a time that he was in love with me. I didn’t feel the same then. He eventually moved on, got married, had children of his own. But every once in a while, I get a glimpse of the love he still holds for me.
I realized a few months ago that the feelings I have for him go deeper than just friendship. I am in love with him. I think the love for him has been there for a long time, I just didn’t see it.
I am very careful to make sure I don’t do or say anything inappropriate. I could never hurt my husband, or my friend’s wife. I don’t say things to him that I wouldn’t tell my husband, and I don’t spend time alone with him, so nothing could be construed as improper. This is not a case of physical or even emotional infidelity. I keep my feelings for him tightly locked inside my own heart.
The problem is each time my husband’s health sidetracks our lives again, I find myself daydreaming about a life with my friend – being married to him. My friend’s marriage has never been stable. I picture us in the future – my friend divorces his wife, then my husband dies. My friend and I get married and spend the rest of our lives traveling and enjoying each other’s company.
Maybe it stems from my fears of my husband’s death. Maybe I just don’t want to be alone. Maybe it’s just easier to imagine a life without that fear of death constantly looming over my head. Maybe I just need therapy.
It is what it is, and I can’t change it. I love my husband. I want him. But if I can’t have him, I want my friend.
Not going to be happy and light, right? Well, you just never know.
This is my 5th Xmas without my love. He was a Xmas maniac, loved everything about it. Our house was lovingly dubbed (by me) the Xmas whorehouse, since it was so covered in lights and knick-knacks and crap, it was amazing we could even live in it; but we did, and loved it. Each year my husband lovingly put together a CD of Xmas music that we used as our card/gift. He collected Xmas music, you see, and, the more awful it was, the better…he LOVED bad Xmas music as much as he loved good. We had a lot of talented friends, so each year we’d also include one cut on the CD that someone we knew sang. The year Tom died I made one, final CD. It had a few really fun cuts on it, it had to, but it was mostly sad, aching, and a tribute to Tom. I included 3 songs that he sang on it, and every year, including this one, it catches me up short to hear his beautiful voice. I decorate the house and the tree (way less whorishly) and listen to the CD’s and have my self a merry little sobfest, replete with alcoholic beverage of my choice and a box of Kleenex.
It’s very hard on our son too. I think this year has been a little better because he is working at something he loves, and is working a LOT of hours. When he gets home though, he tends to close himself in his room and play piano, mostly sad, indie dirges he either writes himself or has learned to play. It’s good, it’s how he handles his feelings.
He’s the one who actually puts up the tree and lights it. That used to be Tom’s job, and then I’d decorate. But now it’s fallen to the wonder-boy, and he bitches and moans all the way through the process; his own little sobfest.
I miss him. I miss him so very much, more than I can express. He was my guy, and there is a vast, gaping hole where he was.
And so often I rail against the unfairness of it. It is so unfair that MY husband had to die! It is so shitty that MY kid has to live without a father, had to be a teen without a father. On and on and on…I could go on forever about the unfairness of it. About the goddamn WHY-ME-ness of it.
Lately, however, there has been this little, insistent-but-kind voice in my head asking me “why NOT you? What makes you so special that bad things aren’t supposed to happen in your life. Look around, look on this board you’re writing on, everyone on here has earned the right to SCREAM why me! Why are you not supposed to be going through this? Who of your friends would be a better choice?” maybe it’s just insistent and not so kind, that asshole voice!)
And, I’ve gotta say, I’m starting to listen, at least a little bit. I’m trying to measure my bitterness by tsp vs. tbsp. I’m looking around and seeing that others have it bad too, maybe worse.
I am sad still…grief doesn’t go away, it just is. Xmas is a hard time for me, and then in January it’s the dead date, so… I miss him. I’d kill to have our old life back. That’s all the truth, and has been for the (almost) 5 years he’s been dead.
But the house looks beautiful, and my siblings and their kids will come over on Xmas Eve, as usual. And I have a wonderful son and a great present for wonder boy this year that I’m so excited to give him. I had the best husband and the greatest love that I could ever wish for…why not me for all of that too?
Because that little voice is also there to remind me of the good things, if I listen.
And that’s my Christmas post, and with it comes hugs and love and peace for everyone here on Band Back Together (another one of the good things I have to remember).
The thing about my husband was that he was very talented. He was an actor/voice-over artist and a writer. He had some success in the real world. He also was an amazing singer. There are videos/recordings with him or his voice in them, and episodes of TV shows and movies that come on arbitrarily that he wrote.
Almost 5 years in, I still get blind-sided by these things. I lie on the couch on a Saturday night, watching a movie and am startled to hear his voice; I forgot he did voice-work on that movie. Or I’m flipping through the channels and, OMG…there’s a movie he wrote, or an episode of a television show. Often I just smile, sometimes the effect is a bit more disturbing. Tonight I was on FB, just trudging through, checking in, and there was a post by my (well, his) nephew.
He had found and posted a VERY old video by David Lee Roth (OK, Just a Gigolo, for those older than a minute). His comment was only, “miss you Tom.” Tom does a voice-over on it and appears in one scene. I had forgotten about it. It was really goofy. In the moment…it made me laugh, so hard.
BUT, I’ve been crying off and on all night. That’s the way grief works. It catches you unaware and knocks you for a loop. I can make it through his birthday with aplomb; show me a stupid video, surprise me with his voice..I’m a wreck.
I’m heading into what I call the “horror” months, because the holidays were his, our, favorite time of the year. Especially Christmas; the music, the activities. We always had a huge party. We went to many other ones. He loved carols; each year we’d make a CD for friends and family, with a theme, of Christmas carols. We have a lot of talented friends, so each year we’d include a friend singing on our CD.
Tom died in January 2006. For Christmas 2006 I decided to make one last CD. It is so beautiful, but one of the most precious parts of it was that I was able to add 3 songs that Tom sang on it. Every year I look so forward to – and dread so much – playing the CD. I know that I will listen to it Thanksgiving weekend as I decorate our Christmas tree; that’s when the CD’s come out.
I want to hear it, I dread it. I want to watch those movies, but I dread hearing his voice, remembering. The pain and the joy and the dread and the amazing gratitude that I have because i DO have these reminders…well. It’s hard to describe.
Grief sucks; life keeps moving ahead. And with it, I have to deal with the good and the bad. Tonight, though I’ve been crying most of the night, I’m clear on that. Maybe not tomorrow or Christmas Eve, but I don’t know. The way that this video surprised and delighted me even as it made me sad and feel my loss really points to the way that my grief, all grief, is a living, changeable thing. I will never not feel the pain, but as time goes on, I hope that initial jolt will be more often, one of delight and gratitude rather than pain and loss.