Once upon a time, the complementary balance made between the marriage of the crisp fall air and the warm summer sunshine used to hold nothing but eager anticipation of the return of Saturday morning cartoons, riding my bike around our house until my cheeks would grow rosy and cold, and my own celebratory birthday cake coinciding with the customary digging up of the potato patch. The autumn leaves would glisten in their new colours and the smell of the changing earth would fill my mind with a million memories of happy days.
Things are always less complicated when you’re a child, aren’t they? Back when saying goodbye meant “see you after summer break” and when I thought the term “passing away” just meant moving to a different town.
I know better now.
But I still wasn’t ready to say goodbye to you in the grown up world. It wasn’t fair that you passed away to a town that I couldn’t visit or call or see. It was intangible and I was left confused and hurt and shaken. As I gaze into my own reflection, the thoughts that I’ve pushed away for so long creep back in. Was there something I could have done? Could a magical combination of words have woven an invisible band-aid for invisible scars, the medicine seeping in and fixing what was broken? They tell me no, but in my mind, in my heart… I’m not so sure.
In life, I couldn’t find the words. My heart breaks for the weakness, but in death, I’ve finally found them…
I can’t know what you felt. If I could, then maybe I could have better understood. I can’t know the pain and the sadness. Maybe if I’d listened more, I could have better tried. I saw the hand reaching out, and in some way that only you and I know, I held it. If it was ever enough, I’ll spend a lifetime contemplating.
I’m sorry for not having the words when you asked for them. I’m sorry for letting your hand go when I should have stayed, should have been next to you in that hospital bed. I’m sorry for the hundred things that should have been different, should have been made right. I’m sorry for letting you down when I should have been helping you up. I can’t blame it on being young, on not knowing the words unsaid. I have nothing but these scars to offer.
And sometimes I still feel you. Maybe sometimes you’re still here. I catch my thoughts returning to years ago when I could see you smile, catch your voice on the wind and not have a care in the world about the future, what it holds or when we would need to say goodbye. But now, I can’t remember your voice.
I don’t know if it means much, but despite it all, I’ve never really let go. I’m holding your hand as tightly now as I ever could. With every hope and wish in the world, I’m there, holding on, eyes squeezed shut so tightly in the hopes that maybe when I open them again, this would all have been make believe. The problem with reality however, is that it is never just make believe.
I never thought I’d remember the smell of the air the day of your funeral. That such sweet memories would be tainted with such loss. I never thought I would know what it would feel like begging God for more time, for a do-over that would never be granted. Most times, it felt like walking down a lonely highway in a heavy fog. Every now and again a passing headlight lighting the way, but ultimately ending again in shrouded mist.
I can’t know how things may have been. All I know is what has been.
All I can do is hope that somehow now you know that in that mist, I was there with you. And sometimes when I smell the earthy fragrance of soft leaves and frozen ground it’s like you never left after all. I close my eyes and smile into the wind.
Gone but never forgotten, my friend.