Loss doesn’t just fade. It doesn’t vanish. It doesn’t leave us. It sits beside us, day after day, year after year. Often a different color or shade, but still there. Still present. Sometimes it shouts so loud it’s all you can hear, and other times it’s a steady hum in the background. A vibration, constant and tugging at your skin. A weight, heavy on your chest. You try to take a breath, but it’s never as deep as you need it to be.
I’ve tried to ease back into my life, but it seems every time the phone rings my body jolts. Who is it? What’s wrong? Is everything OK? That’s part of the anxiety that sometimes comes with tragedy.
Loss isn’t past tense; it’s always present. Always with us. Always with me.
When you died, I came face to face with mortality. The ugly reality of life. Something I always knew but never wanted to see. I’ve experienced the deaths of friends and acquaintances. No loss, no ache, nothing at all could prepare my heart for losing you. I have traveled through it all. I felt nothing makes sense. Still nothing jolted me, halted me, stopped me in my tracks, like losing you.
When you were younger, I would watch you and wonder what you would be like when you were older. Curious about the man you would become and how our relationship would evolve over time. The natural escalation from sister and brother to friends. I looked forward to giving you advice and standing beside you through the obstacles of life. I wanted to shield you from the pains I carried with me and help you forge a path that was undeniably you. I wanted to stay up late and talk to you about the world. I wanted to create with you. I wanted to explore with you. I wanted to ask you what it was like to be the baby boy with three sisters. I wanted to watch you laugh out your response with the wit and humor that followed you everywhere you went.
Some of those wants, I got to experience to a small degree. I got to have a brief taste of a life, of a future, before it was ripped away. Before you were gone. Now as you pass in and out of my mind I am reminded of the moments we never got. Of the dreams we never saw realized. You would be 23 today, going on 24. The whole world before you at 13, and in an instant, it was all gone.
You would be an uncle now, and I know you’d love being an uncle. I can picture you teaching the kids to skateboard and ride bikes. Chasing them around the yard until everyone is tired. Some days when I look at my daughter, my heart aches thinking about how she will never know you. Never experience you. You will only live on in memories. We will not celebrate future victories and achievements. We are destined to carry on and rehash the same moments over and over in hopes of keeping you with us. If only we could’ve really kept you here with us.
There’s so much we never got to. And life it just sort of moves in slow motion around me. I catch myself wondering if you would be proud of me. What you would say to me if you were still here? And I wait, anticipating a response that will never come.
Life moves forward, and so many people have been impacted by losing you. Life has slowed down around us as the world spins at full speed. We have made choices and walked down roads that have paved a future that appears uncertain. We have gotten stuck and caught up in sadness. Living, but knowing full well we will never find healing. Nor do we really want to because that might mean losing all we have left of you. So we cling to whatever we can. Just to keep you here with us. Here and not here at the same time.
I have watched the world collapse around me and I’ve felt the rumbles of grief’s earthquake and seemingly unending aftershocks. A smell, a story, a sunset, all a vision of you. I have raged and I have crumbled. Every day a strange mix of anger, sadness and disbelief. I have lied in bed and I have dug myself out of ditches, just to fall back in again and again. I have destroyed friendships and I have forged new ones. I’ve been continuously surprised by the heart’s uncanny ability to open its doors and allow more to pass through, when it seems impossible to feel anything again.
I have said things I regret in my anger, and I have watched my family fall apart and pull back together time and again. I have lived through holidays and birthdays and all the days it felt I couldn’t go on. I am still finding my footing. Still finding my road. My place. And with each step, I remember you. I cherish you. And I long for you.
I don’t think we ever recover from our grief. I think we learn to live, broken and battered. A piece of us forever missing. That’s just what it feels like to lose you.