The Only Ghost

by | Apr 19, 2011 | 3 comments

The pain bites again today.

I received the sketch done to scale of three versions of your headstone via email.  Even in sketch format on my computer screen, it was terrifying.

I thought last week I’d taken a turn.  And I had.  But then with grief, you never know what’s up ahead.  I made a conscious decision of the will to let go of my own grasp of the pain, because I realized- the pain would still be holding on to me- I’d just have my hands free to attend to other things- especially Audrey.  And I was right.  It holds on.  Tonight it holds me more viscously again.

After I open up the sketches of your headstone on my computer this afternoon, I tell Audrey we must go outside and take a walk.   I have a plan for an art project to collect tiny rocks shaped like eggs, paint them blue, and put them in a little nest of some sort – maybe an acorn hat, on our nature table.  More than the art project though, I feel I’m suffocating and must get out of the apartment after I see those sketches.   As usual, I’m more interested in my “project” than she is so I try to follow her lead as we walk behind our building on the little path by the river.  That’s hard for me.  But there is so much value in it…so much more growth.  While I say, “C’mon, we’ve gotta find the little rocks that look like egg shapes,” she balances on the wood beams on either side of the path and shovels the little pebbles there into her pail.  Then she squats down and takes some of the rocks out of the shovel with her little chubby hands and makes an altar of sorts on a wood beam beside her.  “We’re planting these!” she tells me.  Apparently, a rainbow, a peacock, a sunflower, and a daffodil, will all sprout from those rocks on a beam.

I wonder, if it’s the same with the grief (and with life)…letting go of my preconceived plans and ideas…following its lead.  This is ever so frightening to a control freak and perfectionist who has indeed perfected her control freak ways.

I do things proactively when I feel led- it’s like a dance- to keep moving forward because the stagnation of trying to hold time still to stay closer to the pain and to you- is also suffocating.  I buy myself an early birthday present- a handmade necklace with three charms- each with one of our initials- a, d, j- our family.  I will take off your wedding ring and place that on sometime in the future- I don’t know when.  But your ring starts to weigh me down lately- it feels much heavier and less comforting than it did in the beginning.

I haven’t changed my bottom sheet yet.  But I’ve done so many things recently.  Moved the bag that held our swimming stuff from where I put it down when the phone rang, washed our towels, changed the quilt, thrown out the ice cream in the freezer I made with the last gift you gave me- the surprise cookies I found the day before you died.  I’ve sorted through the giant bag that sat in the corner for months filled with sympathy cards.  I’m in the process of arranging to loan your cello out to a promising music school student, and the other day I even took your dirty laundry out of the laundry basket and put it in a big ziploc bag.  I wait and wait to do these things…and when the time is right- I somehow feel and know it and when I do that thing- there is a sense of relief and health.  There is a subtle nuance I must pay very careful attention to…following grief’s lead.

I ready myself for taking off the sheet you slept on with me.  I buy fancy new pillows and sheets and a belgium linen duvet with french stripes.  I will need some kind of reward the day I take it off, so this is how I do it.

Saturday Audrey asked to watch videos of when she was a “teeny tiny baby,” the ones on your computer recorded by you.  We sat in your chair together and watched one after another.  It is not surprising to hear your voice talking to her constantly, “Hi Audrey!!!  Hi Beptz!”  It is normal.  Your death isn’t at all familiar yet- it’s still your living self that is.  But it is so hard for me to comprehend- how much has changed in a few years.  In April of 2008, you and I were living in Brooklyn, getting ready to take our “babymoon” to Turks and Caicos.  In 2011, I have a 2-1/2 year old, you are dead, and I live in Jersey.  It’s a lot to take in.  Follow the lead…relinquish my plan.

Last night I dreamt of you- a vivid dream.  The kind I don’t get very often.  But it was nothing supernatural…just my pitiful subconscious mind still trying to make sense of things.  You came home and I, while remaining calm, explained how everyone thought you were dead- how I’d had a funeral and how much I’ve cried.  You didn’t seem surprised by it.  Then I became annoyed at you because of typical silly things you were doing and wondered to myself, “How could I be like this when I’ve missed him so, so much?”  As in all of these kinds of dreams, there is the idea in my dream-self’s mind that we must consummate our reunion.  It seems the obvious thing to do.  There is a sense of urgency.  And yet, in the end of each of these dreams- we never do.  It is impossible for one reason or another.

Oh Dan, we are so far apart now.  The moment you died, we were- not only on a cosmic scale, but because before we were similar people and all of that ended.  We had similar upbringings, similar goals/hopes, we lived in the same place, changed our baby’s diapers, talked about music we liked, watched shows we liked together, critiqued moves we watched together, and shared meals in restaurants together, “Here, try mine…”

Now you are someone who died a tragic, early death by drowning.

I am someone who lost her husband at 34, had to bury him, and is alone with a toddler each day trying to make sense of it and figure out what to do next.

“Dan and Jul” is the only ghost that haunts me.

We are so very far apart.


April 19, 2011


  1. Brooke Simmons

    feeling every word to my core. I get this post on so many levels…even the belgian linen. I bought a new belgian linen duvet from Restoration Hardware and changed all my linens a couple of months ago.
    I hurt and cry for you tonight. and for me.

  2. Anonymous

    all of those things – so intense, each one. What would have been nothing before is so everything now.

    I met with a psychic and one thing he said keeps coming back to me "he is learning to live with you in this new world, and you are learning to live with him in his." You still share this.

  3. Anne D

    This line is very affecting: "I wait and wait to do these things…and when the time is right- I somehow feel and know it and when I do that thing- there is a sense of relief and health." You are right to trust your instincts. Keep taking good care of yourself, Julia.


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