It occurs to me today that I started this blog two years ago. Kind of hard to believe.
Saturday (February 2nd) was GR’s 48th birthday. But he will forever be 45 in my mind.
February is not typically my favorite month. It’s winter, it’s cold, it’s the month of GR’s birthday and the anniversary of his death. These dates bring with them memories, and not necessarily happy memories.
I was talking to a friend the other day about it and she said, “It’s like a portal that you have to walk through every year.” I have thought about that comparison a lot since then. That’s exactly what it is like: walking through a portal, peering out windows that show screens on which memories are projected.
What do I see when I look out at them?
I see cancer. I see an adjustable hospice bed in my and GR’s dining room. I hear the sounds of the oxygen pump. I see his closed, sunken-in eyes and soft skin. I see the kelly green, black, and gray flannel shirt he was wearing. I feel my empty stomach full of one thing and one thing only–nerves. I see myself sitting at the end of his bed, rubbing his feet. I feel my heart heavy as a bowling ball in my chest. I feel my eyes dry and bloodshot. I had cried all the tears.
When I walk through the portal and peer out the window flashing scenes from his last birthday (on earth), I see the red tulips and two cupcakes I bought him to put candles in because it’s not your birthday if you don’t blow out candles. Normally I would have made him a cake, but since he hadn’t been able to keep down any food in weeks, a cake seemed pretty impractical. I don’t think he even took a bite of the cupcakes either. His belly was full and taut from cancerous fluid that needed to be drained. He was so uncomfortable. He’d already been throwing up for 24 hours and when we called his doctor they said to go to the ER immediately. But GR told me nope, he wasn’t going there on his birthday. So we waited and went the day after, even though I was scared that he was vomiting so often and so profusely…but there was nothing I could do but BE THERE. I think he knew what was coming and, for fuck’s sake, he wasn’t going to spend his last birthday in the hospital. I understood. Once we did go back to the hospital (on Feb. 3), he stayed there for 15 days. He left on Feb. 18 and died three days later on the 21st.
This is what grief is like. A portal to the past. Memories and visuals reside in my being at a cellular level. This is why I have to do so much motherfucking healing work in my life. There is so much I carry that I also want and need to release.
I remember Shaman Rob told me, “You have experienced dark things in your life, but you yourself are light.” I hold on tightly to that.
Heading into February, I not only reflect upon what I’ve seen, but also what I’ve learned from what I’ve seen.
Some of those lessons, the truths of my experiences, are:
That grief is truly an expression of love that must exist in a different space than it did before. That my compulsion to want to KNOW things is directly tied to the lack of certainty that has characterized much of my life. That keeping one’s heart open is a choice that takes work. That gratitude is the antidote to sadness. I’ve learned that all that’s left in the end is love, and that it never goes away. So what was really lost?