Sunday is the two year anniversary of Tim’s death. In the two weeks leading up to this milestone, I dreamt about him often. I dreamt that I was in a van traveling up the east coast, carrying his suitcase and things around with me. He traveled with me in the cargo area, but nobody else could see him. I asked him if he was upset he died young.
“I accomplished a ton before I died,” he said. It was something far more positive than he ever felt in life.
“Yes, you did. And now?”
“This isn’t so bad at all,” he said.
Cool dude, awesome. Glad you’re pretty chill with the everlasting peace. I’ll be down here living a life of suffering like the rest of us. You do you, Tim.
I dreamt that we were on vacation for a getaway weekend, just the two of us in a fancy hotel. At breakfast the last morning before checkout, we talked about our relationship.
“I’m done dating other people,” I said to him at the table. “I got that out of my system, and I want to be with you. I love you,” I told him.
“I love you too. I think we should be together,” he replied.
“So do I. Why can’t we be together?”
And we sat there staring at each other, trying to figure out why we couldn’t be together. I woke up to Pascale wagging her tail in my too-big-for-just-me King bed, and still wondered why we couldn’t be together. It took me a few minutes waking up to figure it out. Remembering is the worst part.
Whenever I have dreams about him, even the disturbing ones, I’m always thankful for them. No matter how confusing they are or how depressed they leave me after, I love those dreams. I love them because I get to see him again.
The book is another way to see him and revisit our life together. I work on it as much as I can without completely sacrificing myself to it. Writing the story of losing him is like cutting myself over and over. The words are the blood. The writing the bleeding. I’m not sure if there is any release in the work. Right now, it feels like mostly pain, but I am driven to tell this story. I write it because I have to, not because I want to.
As the pages stack, I start to look back on the past two years with a little bit of an outsider perspective. In some ways, it’s incredible I didn’t completely lose my shit dealing with everything I had to. Lawyers, losing BT, moving twice, shuffling real estate, the death of my grandmother and a close friend. Though I try to strike a balance of levity and sadness in my work (and my life), sometimes the weight of my grief settles on the page. I’ve heard the feedback, this is too much for me and I can’t help but think it was too much for me too.
But I guess it wasn’t, because here I am waking up every day with something to look forward to. My sadness stays with me, but it is less of a cloud into my being than it used to. Sure, there are times it surprises me. I’ll hear someone say, he said that he loved our life together, and as soon as the words come out into the room I have to look away from the conversation to blink back tears. It’s the kind of thing I wish I said to Tim in those last two weeks.
Even though I’m still hit by the grief monster, the world is too special to turn my back on. There are amazing stories, spoken, written and lyrical, to hear every day. There are ponies! So many ponies, and puppies and travel and friends and all the things that I love. Two years later, I can enjoy them more fully again.
Two years later, the feelings around my grief has changed. Initially after everything happened, I had so many logistics to dig through and a giant hole to climb out of. Powering through things is a strength of mine, so I powered through and made getting my life back in order a number one priority. Then after more time there was the newness and excitement that comes with dating again, which is present even if you’re dabbling into Tinder while simultaneously processing a huge loss. Add a new house… a new horse for a little bit — I had so many distractions and things to work. Now at two years, everything has settled. There are no more lawyers to deal with, and dating isn’t a fun new game anymore. At two years, it’s just me and the slow, crawling aftermath of what happened to me.
When a friend asked me a few months earlier how I planned to acknowledge the anniversary of Tim’s death, I didn’t have an answer for her. It’s not something I want to acknowledge or celebrate. To me his birthday is a better time for that. The day he died was the worst day of my life. If I could remove it off the calendar for good, I would. I planned to acknowledge it by not acknowledging it at all.
But as we dipped further into summer, I felt the general apathy and laziness of depression return. It has been better than last year, but I lost patience for people. Had no tolerance for bad behavior. Hardly anyone seemed to remember the date of his death or think about how it would affect me.
His family would remember for sure, but I rarely speak with them these days. If grief is a ship wreck in a hopeless ocean, his family and I are on different life rafts floating away from the wreckage. Everyone wishes the other survival, but we can’t paddle backwards and try to find the island together. It’s taken me a long time to understand that.
This time last year, I felt such a greater understanding of the world in the aftermath of losing Tim. Now I’m not so sure. Grief has given me this huge range of emotions that I didn’t have before. Happiness is so bright, clear and welcome when it’s here and the other side is just as all consuming. Mostly though, I’ve leveled out with time. If anything, grief has made me feel lonelier than I ever have, and it’s not because I’m single. Grief has isolated me from my peers in some ways. I’m often in a room full of people, and think about how no one can feel what I’m going through. Maybe that’s why I write about it so much — a never ending quest to ask others to understand.
When I think about the anniversary of Tim’s death, I feel very alone. So instead of refusing to acknowledge it, I took my happiness into my own hands and booked a trip to visit a friend who knew and loved Tim too. On Sunday, we’ll go to the beach and relax under the sun. Maybe we’ll talk about him. I’ll certainly think about him, because I always think about him. The experience of loving and losing him has settled into me as deep as my own genetics.
When Tim first died, I didn’t know what I’d do without him. Two years later, I’m still finding out. I hold on to his memory as close as I can, because now that is what I can’t imagine living without. His memory is the only thing I have left to lose. I clutch it in my fist close to my heart, and nothing will pry it away. Not loneliness, depression or fear. I keep him, and I keep moving forward.