There’s been a death in my immediate family.
The ultimate omega to its alpha happened within the last few hours. While not entirely expected, it didn’t completely surprise me, either.
I didn’t want it, but I needed it.
I didn’t know that initially. I do now.
Death comes in many forms. There’s the end of one’s corporeal life, of course, but more often than not, it’s also representative of the end of something; a relationship, a habit, a mindset. Stuff we can’t put in a casket and bury. Well, we could, but that would be a hell of an expense to incur. I’d do it if I thought the symbolic representation would help, but it wouldn’t.
Well, because I just spent the past two months finally growing up and when you’ve attained that sacred status of adulthood, metaphors just don’t cut it any more.
Or so I thought.
For a great portion of my life, I loved a man from a far. No matter what happened in my life, through my successes and through my failures, I loved him. I saw his face when I met and fell for other men. I heard his words, when I was told “I love you”. I saw his face when I should have seen the beauty that life offered. But I didn’t. I allowed what I thought I felt for him to color everything. But sadly, heartache only represents half the spectrum. I missed out on so much.
In addition, I let opportunity after opportunity slip through my fingers like so much sand. Therefore, it’s quite fitting then to come to the conclusion that I’ve spent past 38 years with my head completely lodged in the stuff.
I often claimed I had first hand knowledge of a great love when in reality, I was in a state of abject denial.
So, this morning I answered the phone and in doing so, I pulled my head out of a billion gritty granuals and looked around me, as if for the very first time. I saw my reality and it wasn’t pretty. I realized that I lived, loved, cried, and remembered a million things and somehow managed to compress those things with a brilliant overview of the past 38 years in one very brief eight minute phone call. What took years to create, ended in eight minutes.
Eight minutes. That’s all. It’s said that God created the world in less time.
But in those scant eight minutes, I lived a lifetime. My life and times flashed before my eyes. It was like I was sitting in an arena theater, watching a video of 3-D dioramas, all representing these pertinent times in my life. It was shown above my head at different locations on the ceiling. Extremely fleeting glimpses they were, but lasting long enough for me to recognize each one.
I hung up the phone and walked away from that conversation not wringing my hands and collapsing on the couch as I would do normally. Instead, I was thinking, “My God, I wasted a lot of time!”
But I forgive myself for not knowing any better. I forgive myself for not having the tools or the bandwidth really, to do anything about it at the time. And I sit here typing, aware of my altered feelings. I now know I’m an evolved woman. Everything has changed…or my perception of it has and when that happens, there’s no going back. I would never have thought that before coming to terms with that fact. Does this make sense to anyone else not inside my head?
Well, it makes sense to me and it’s all so damn true. Had I known this, had I not been so afraid to let go, I would’ve done so years ago. But maybe the time wasn’t right back then. Maybe for any of this to adhere, I had to become the woman I’d carved out of life in order to become the woman who’d eventually be carved out of this “death”.
So, wait a minute. If I put it that way…then, in some ways…hey, I actually died this morning. Really? Oh, I get it now…it was me, not the relationship that had gotten so invasive and sprouted tenticles; enough to form this noose around my neck. It was me or rather the old Laurie who allowed the marauding over growth. Oh well, if that’s the case, that woman HAD to go. She was a liability and obviously, her gardening skills were deplorable!
I didn’t realize that I was the one that needed to be put down. I didn’t realize that until a good friend contacted me this morning. She actually served as my very own personal Dr. Kevorkian for this occasion. Because she’d been through this before, this life-becomes-death- becomes-a-second-chance kind of scenario, she helped administer the lethal cocktail of reality and it came not in a vile or a pill bottle, but rather, in this missive:
“After the first death, there is no other,” wrote Dylan Thomas.
That doesn’t mean the ones that come after won’t break your heart, but it’s the first one that punches your soul’s passport. He was your first love and while, he may have left a long, long time ago, your feelings for him never did.
So, here you are.
All I can tell you is “Welcome, fellow human, to a different country than the one you woke up to this morning”.
The air’s different here; so is the scenery. Your knees don’t work so well; in fact, you may want to fall to them. If this reality makes you do that, then you do that.
For a precious little while, you are allowed to be stunned into silence, or to shriek, or to talk—recounting stories of who he was, what he meant to you, and how it all came to an end. Tell those stories. Compose them in your head, then juxtapose it to keyboard. Write about these memories. The love you kept alive is worth it. It’s your story. You tell it as you see fit.
Now, there will be those people who’ll try to enforce “The Rules,” to wit: Enough of This Drama Is Enough. Ignore them. The only rule is that in mourning, there are no rules. Besides, if you treat yourself gently and take the time you need, someday soon you’ll once again hear the faint but steady voice of your own good sense returning. When you do, you’ll welcome it. That will serve as an alarm that it’s time to start living again.
In the meantime, play music you love, that which reminds you of him. Sit in the sunshine if you can find some, and if anyone offers you a hand, hold it. Let them feed the cat and water the plants, too, because they want to be useful.
And if in a few weeks, your good sense doesn’t kick in on its own, help it along: make breakfast. How about a nice frittata? It might feel strange at first, but if you pretend that making frittatas is normal, eventually it will become normal. Soon you can squeeze some orange juice, too. If you can do that, can squeezing out regular, normal days be far behind?
For some of us, our stay in this new country seems endless. But time passes, seasons change, and, truly, would those we grieve for want us to mope? It doesn’t matter whether they’ve died or they’ve walked out on you, being gone is being gone. Absence is absence. Pain doesn’t give a damn about semantics.
So, take some time to feel all you need to feel and process all that you must, but eventually, come back into the real world..the one that doesn’t familiarize itself with daily crying jags. God knows, at our age, we’ll have to return to this land someday all too soon, but in the meantime , your car needs to be inspected, you have jury duty in late December, the bills need paying and you still need to find a job to make all of the above possible.
Besides, you have others that you love and others who love you that are here in the present–those who’ve never left you.
And they still need you.
And as for you, my dear, sweet friend, YOU could use a shower.
And she was right.
I finished reading that last sentence, then inhaled deeply. The smell of mourning and loss hit me like bricks. It was an acrid combination of that tale-tell sign that my deodorant that had just about run it’s course, mixed with a little regret.
I took a shower. A nice long one…one that’ll probably make Houston water purveyors think I’ve started growing crops in here hydroponically.
But that doesn’t matter. I emerged an hour later, pink and wrinkled like a newborn and in some ways, I was. You see, I was wrong about not needing metaphors. They’re vital. Like my shower was vital. I was baptized anew in a font and basin designed to cleanse. So, two pivotal things were accomplished in my bathroom today. I couldn’t have done either without metaphor.
And I most assuredly, could not have done it without the restorative powers of hot water and a bar of Caress.
Oh yeah….clarity helps, too.
It’s really all about closure, my friends. It’s a wonderfully glorious thing to finally attain, especially in a life lived without it.