Today is August 13, 2015. Officially a year and one day since you passed away. How does it feel? Everyone says the first year is the hardest. So is there some magical moment that propels you from year one to year two? Am I supposed to feel different today? Lighter? I don’t. Recently I’ve been having these nightmares where I wake up with a start and am filled with dread that you died. Then I realize it’s not a nightmare. It’s real life. It actually happened. You are gone.
Two days ago was my 30th birthday. It was such a bittersweet day. I’m glad I’ve been alive for another year, but it is weird not having you here. And today is the day that my world stopped turning one year ago.
According to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, there is anticipatory grief. I guess what I mean is that in the back of my mind, I knew you would die someday, but I anticipated that I would be well into adulthood when that happened, like I would be your age when you died, not that you’d be 62 and I’d be barely 29.
You didn’t keep your promise dad, and it’s a promise that everyone makes that they can’t keep. You said you’d always be there and you’re not.
Are you happy where you are? Or is there only nothingness? Nothingness like the hole in my heart that exists because you are gone.
When I got home from celebrating my birthday last year, I discovered that there had been massive flooding in Michigan and that mom didn’t know where you were. On the morning of the 12th, Molly texted me to say you had never come home. I remember being filled with such emptiness, trying to imagine where you might be or what might have happened to you. I tried to do what I could from New York, calling the Michigan State Police, calling anyone I thought would listen. But nothing seemed to work. Then mom called me at around 9 p.m. on the 12th to tell me that you had died. The world fell out from under me. I remember repeating over and over again, through my tears, that I didn’t understand.
I am still waiting for you to walk through the door, say, “Hey babes! I’m home.” And act like you’re still here, like you were never gone. But I can’t hear those words out loud anymore. I can only hear them reverberate around my own head.
At your funeral, I was crying so hard, I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t know how life would move forward. And now it’s already been a year. How is that possible? I guess we have two choices. We either stop living, or we move forward even though life no longer makes sense.
Sometimes, some random guy will pass me on the street and will be wearing your cologne. It’s disarming. It makes me happy and sad at the same time. And I have to look really hard to make sure it isn’t you.
I still struggle with the religious aspects of your death. As Jews, we commemorate death on the Hebrew calendar, and the date changes every year. And I wonder why I am forced to focus on another day, when there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think of you.
Being in New York, I’ve found it hard to go to services. And I feel really guilty because it’s something that you took such pride in doing for your own father. I am doing my best to find other ways to make your life and death matter.
I went home to Michigan for the yahrzeit and it was good to be surrounded by Mom, Molly, Bubbie, and Nancy. We also unveiled your stone, as is tradition. It’s weird to say, but the stone is nice. When you died and we were at the funeral home, they asked us if we wanted the same casket we had for Zaydie or if we wanted to look for a different one. No one else wanted to, but I was hoping that something would speak to me. It didn’t. But the stone, if it has to be here and you’re not, is dignified.
I don’t think there’s ever really enough time in life. And we only realize this when it’s too late. There’s so much I would have liked to have said to you. So many more times we could have talked. So many things that you have already missed and will miss in the future. You didn’t get to see me graduate from Sarah Lawrence College with a second Master’s degree. You won’t get to see Andrew and I get married (assuming he proposes) and you won’t get to be a grandfather to my future children.
All that I have left are pictures and memories. Some days that feels like enough, but most days it definitely doesn’t.
“Summer has come and passed/ The innocent can never last/ Wake me up when September ends”
- Green Day