This day is dreadfully painful, but it only occurs to me tonight that this was the day of your wake. The day I saw your body and the last time I saw your face. The evening I had dreaded for a week. The collapse of my body as the funeral director turned that little knob on the casket and I realized I would never see you- even though that was nothing like you- again.
I wish that the phrase, “I’m drowning,” didn’t come into my mind so often to describe the wave after wave of intense nostalgia and pain grief brings.
I wish, as your wife, I knew what your final moments on earth were like. It doesn’t seem right that I was so far away and don’t really understand what happened. I know this fact makes my grief complicated and lasting.
Audrey and I talk about you every day. Today she tells me “Maybe Appa sees me from heaven and he thinks I’m a really beautiful person.” “Yes, yes, he definitely would.” Would. I can’t make promises. But I can tell her how true that would be. That no one would think her more beautiful- than you. Oh, if you only saw her now- with her long hair.
While she’s doing a puzzle of the United States later, “My appa was really good at puzzles. He could do like…a hundred thirty piece puzzle!” smiling up at me. I must’ve told her of your puzzle skills at some point, and it makes me glad that she was listening. She knows about you- at least as much of a picture I can paint without the person here. I hope and pray it doesn’t read like a personals ad to her. “Likes puzzles, musician, makes people laugh,” There’s so much more than that to a human being. So much I could never put into words.
The finality that came with year two has been hard. The fact that we are also moving accentuates that. I stare into space a lot more often throughout the day. I relive the phone call- the steps…the dance between Audrey and I in the little hallway as I run towards the phone in wet bathing suit because I must say goodbye and will not walk those steps again the rest of my life. The place where I answer. The chair I hold onto, (yours) while I scream, “What the f— happened?” when he asks if I’m driving. The exact place- under the doorway of the kitchen- where I stood when I heard the word “dead,” and it was much worse than I ever could have imagined even though I felt it was bad already. The couch I floated to and sat on while I stared at the photo of the two of us kissing Audrey like a sandwich while I screamed, “I’m a widow at 34?” and followed by a delusional, “No, everything’s fine, he’s coming home July 23rd…everything’s fine and hanging up. Even then, I knew I was acting. Even then, I really did know. But at that moment, with those words, I slipped into my actress clothing and make-up because I realized this could not be me. This can not be you. But I can play the role.
I wish we could be close forever like we were. But I can’t figure out how to do that. My life changed dramatically- I experienced something you never did- alone. I am alive. You underwent something that is a mystery to me. I have no real idea if you know or not what happened then, or what is happening now- though I’d like to believe you do – I have to confess it is all mysterious to us in the end.
I am sad that so much separates us and that this intense nostalgia follows me wherever I go. In two years- that hasn’t changed much. The nostalgia you typically feel for something in your past – your childhood, college days, is felt in grief the day after you spoke- because that life is suddenly as old as your childhood- only much older. And you feel it for the present – for that parallel line in another dimension when he is here- and you are all together- complete. And you feel it for the future- which will be entirely different. In which you will be entirely different. And you feel all of this at once.
And everywhere. You are in my clothing- the shirts you bought me- t-shirts you got for free through work that were so soft you bragged about how comfortable they’d be when you gave them to me, it’s in our home – the one I am now leaving behind in another month- where you stood washing dishes, playing with our daughter- where you unlocked the door one last time and returned your house keys, “I won’t need these…” in the pencil marks you made on the interior of the bathroom cabinets so you could screw in the child safety locks, and…although it is hard to conceive of how one can feel such overflowing delight and such sadness at once- it is in our own little girl…breaking my heart even as I savor each moment with her.
You have left us. We will leave here. Life will continue on.
Nostalgia. From the Greek. nostos: return home.