I can’t believe that it has been three years since you’ve been gone. It’s so hard to imagine that time has gone by without you. And yet, it has. I remember, in the beginning, feeling like I would never be able to breathe again, feeling like I would never be able to put one foot in front of the other again.
I can still remember going out to celebrate my birthday, unaware and carefree. I remember getting home, seeing pictures of the flood on Facebook, and texting mom to make sure everything was okay. I will never forget her telling me that she didn’t know where you were. I’ll never forget the text Molly sent me at 6:00 a.m. the next day, telling me that you never made it home. I remember calling the Michigan State Police from New York and telling them that they had to look for you, that someone needed to look for you. And they assured me they would. They didn’t. No one did. Only your family did. And in the end, the stranger you talked to that night found you the next day.
And I remember the call that came at 9:00 p.m. on August 12, 2014, from mom, telling me that you had passed away. I remember crying uncontrollably, and repeating over and over again that I didn’t understand. In all honesty, I still don’t understand. I don’t understand how something like this could have happened to you. I don’t understand how something like this could have happened to us.
And I remember booking a flight. I remember showering at 1:00 a.m. But I don’t remember packing a bag. I don’t remember the taxi ride to the airport. I don’t remember waiting for the flight. I don’t even remember the plane ride.
I do remember getting to Michigan and hugging Molly the tightest and hardest I ever have. I remember her friend trying to coax her to eat a bite of a bagel. And I remember thinking that I never realized that 20 year olds could display such compassion and selflessness.
I remember seeing you in your casket. It’s an image that will never be erased from my mind. I remember thinking that you looked like you but not. I don’t remember how I held it together, but I think I barely did. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think. The heart takes much longer to process what the mind already knows.
And I remember that I was shocked at how many people came to your funeral. Not because I didn’t know that you were loved, but because I didn’t know how much and by how many people. And it showed how many lives you had touched in your own way.
I remember bits and pieces of the service. Someone told us that they saw a goldfish cracker lying under a pew at the funeral home. YOU. I remember a moth flying around the limo on the way to the cemetery. You were there. And, in my greatest time of need since you died, you were there. I know you were, you had to be. And I have to think that going forward, you will be there even though you won’t physically be there. In the moments that I need you. In the moments when I want you to be there.
It’s so unfair all of the things that you’ll miss in the future, and all of the things you’ve already missed in the last three years.
In three years, so many things have changed…
I graduated from Sarah Lawrence, my then boyfriend and I broke up, I moved back to Michigan, I got a job, I got a new boyfriend, I got an apartment, Bubbie passed away, Molly got into PA school, and Molly graduated from Wayne State.
This is not just a list. There has been sadness and happiness. And it has taught me that I can still feel, whether good or bad.
And in three years, so many things remain the same…
I am angry. And I don’t want to be. But the efforts I put forth to make your death matter have failed. And I’ve seen first-hand other families go through what we went through. Except, in a way, we were lucky. We were lucky that our ordeal “only” lasted 24 hours. We were lucky that you were found, even though we will never know what happened to you.
We weren’t lucky that you died, but we were very, very lucky that we had you in our lives for the time that we did.
I love you, Dad, always and forever,