The young widows say, you don’t move on, but you try to move forward. I like this. There is no moving on.
The memorial, I decided, was not particularly hard. I had processed beforehand. I had planned things of beauty to honor you with others. I have lived and breathed your death for 365 days. For most of the people in attendance, I think the remembrance was more jarring- pushing aside their busy lives to allow sorrow in. Me? I had company at your grave. That was nice. Audrey sprinkled white rose petals on your grave. We released rainbow colored balloons. We placed stones on your newly carved headstone. We sang. We prayed. It was hot. I blew you a kiss after everyone left, and then we all went for lunch at a Korean tofu house. This is what grief on earth is- seeing your husband’s name carved in stone on the anniversary of his death- and then enjoying his favorite foods at a busy restaurant…the holy and horrific, and utterly mundane like driving and eating and talking- all mixed up like a bowl full of bi bim bap.
I also hear that the first year is, especially in the case of a shocking death, mostly numbness. I agree. It’s not that magically on the one year mark, the numbness and shock lift, but after a year of “let me get through this holiday…” and “let me get through this birthday,” and then “here comes the one year marker…” one is left with just…the missing.
I miss the way you held chopsticks, and the way you moved your fingers across the mouse on my laptop. I miss the way you moved your eyes back and forth in your head just to be funny. I miss the shape of your foot in white sweat socks and the sound of your voice on the phone line, “hey…” i miss having someone at home who wasn’t looking at their watch, wondering when they have to leave- to get back to their life, their family, their home.
I am looking for an apartment- two realtors brought prospective buyers into our home yesterday. It felt invasive but I decided to try to put a positive spin on it and think of it like I was on an HGTV show or something. The first realtor asks me as she puts her shoes back on, “So, where are you moving to?” “I have no idea,” I tell her. She hands me her card. The wife of the couple who came second complemented me on the brightness and warmth of the home I’d created, stopping to look at Audrey’s dinosaur world. “Are you a teacher or just a good mom?” she asked. “No, I just teach her.” “Are you a filmmaker or an artist?” she asked again after they toured the bedroom. “No, I guess I’m a writer and my husband was a musician.” “I just love everything you did with the place,” she says again before she leaves.
I call a potential apartment for us today and the woman renting the apartment in her two family home asks me to tell her about myself. This catches me off guard. “Well…I have an almost three year old…I live in Edgewater…um…my husband actually passed away about a year ago so it’s just us.” Guess I’m going to be telling this story a lot.
A couple of days ago, on the new sidebar of friends you can chat with on Facebook, I see your photo. Really, I think, can I chat with you? I click on it. “Daniel isn’t available right now to chat.” But then I see something surprising- an old message- from May of 2008- when I was about five months pregnant with Audrey. “Hey babe,” you wrote. “You’re hot. What are you wearing?” “Grey sweatpants. (smiley face)” was my reply. And that’s it. That must’ve been the only time we ever chatted on Facebook. I type you a message because according to Facebook, “Daniel isn’t online right now but he’ll receive the message later.” I send you this message and now your face appears in my messages when I click on it. I like to see you there.
Your cousin visits today. She is special to me. I like how she always starts her emails to me, “It’s your cousin, –” And after spending the day with us, lunch, running errands, going to Audrey’s swim lesson- where Audrey resists swimming saying she doesn’t want to die, a quick dinner- she hands me a card from “all the cousins” in Chicago right before she goes to catch the bus- the very same one I’d hurry you off to. I open it to find money, and I cry because it is humbling but mostly because in the card there are lots of words. I can see the different cousins have written little segments for me in their own handwriting- kind of like those birthday cards that get passed around offices. When you are constantly told there are no words, it is lovely to see some. It is the best gift to me…a keeper of words.
Where I live now, I decide today, is like a trench created by shifting tectonic plates on the earth’s crust. I read about the convergent collisions that gave rise to the Himalayas- the highest mountain system on earth- and they also gave rise to the Mariana Trench in the North Pacific Ocean, the deepest point on earth. And moving forward, not moving on, is a lot like what I read about this living geologic mass in our lithosphere, “churning currents in the molten rocks below propel them along like a jumble of conveyor belts in disrepair.”