She tells me to write one positive thing a day. A paragraph, a sentence, a page, a word. Tells me to try as hard as I can to flake away the aching and find something beautiful to focus on. Do not let yourself get overrun with hurt. Focus on the good.
Another tells me to let the emotions pass through me. To notice them, give them breath and life, but let them leave again. Do not hold on so tight they control you. Do not let them plant roots. Pain must wash in and out and leave room for good.
In a Twitter message another woman in my life tells me that she has been fragile lately. That she knows I’ve been hurting and she’s been hurting, too. Says she had to protect herself. Tells me about going to a bar and drinking water. Singing karaoke at the top of her lungs. Doing something good.
It’s simple in theory, but hard to remember. I have to lean on those around me to remind me to look for the shiny pieces of life. The ones that make me feel like continuing forward. The ones that makes this whole thing seem like fun. No, it will not cure us. It will not make as bulletproof. But there’s a certain kind of resilience that comes with making sure to notice the good.
So let’s go out. Let’s pretend we forgot how much this is hurting. Let’s wrap ourselves up in vests and raincoats and take to the woods. Let’s undress and lay down on massage tables and melt into the comfort of another set of hands. Let’s make dinner. Sit on the patio and talk at one in the morning. Sleep in. Wake up early and go for a run while it’s still dark out. Let’s find excuses to laugh more and think about all of this less. Got it? Good.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Pallian.
I smelled cedar when I heard you died. Immediately transported back to that summer my family was building bidarkas in your wood shop. How Marci and I would go down to the river and wade up to our thighs in glacial runoff. Try to catch tadpoles with our bare hands. When our feet froze through we’d climb back up that steep dirt trail and sneak back into the building. Over and under beams, around contraptions and tools we didn’t know the use for. You’d find us giggling between an old truck and a dresser, ask us what we were doing. “Oh, we just came in for hugs!” Our standard response. And you knew we were bullshitting you, but you wrapped us up in big bear arms regardless.
You made appearances at all important functions and every quiet night around a fire pit you could. Always in your trademark hat, you listened contently and laughed loud. Always one of the first people I wanted to introduce my new partners to. “You have to meet Mike and Pat.”
The day you died I talked with your daughter and she said, “Good dads are precious.” And I think about how lucky we all were to have you. How you helped raise all of us, just like your wife did. Does. Is doing. There aren’t words for that kind of loss. It is not a sadness that sweeps over us like waves crash. It is not a heart cracking like a branch in the wind. It a simple and sudden hollowing out. An emptiness in a space you didn’t even realize someone was occupying. A piece slid out of a Jenga game and we all just hope it doesn’t come crashing down now.
That is the thing with death, isn’t it? We always expect it to end us, too. As if experiencing the hurt of losing someone is not something we were built to do. But it doesn’t have to only ache, does it? We climb back into our memories and let you wrap us in your arms again. We remember that belly laugh, that wide grin. We mourn the loss, yes, but in turn we celebrate the living you did. And oh, how you did.
Photo courtesy of Regan House Photo.