It’s Sunday, I’m sitting in bed and I’m thinking about death. No, not my own. Although my hangover from the wedding I attended last night feels pretty close. Every so often I get hit, and I mean hit, with grief so deep that it feels like I can’t inhale enough oxygen with every breath. How is it that my life has just… moved on? Time has been this relentless hurricane sending me tumbling through waves of love and pain and grief and laughter and feelings and just when I think I’ve come up for air long enough to breathe properly, another wave comes crashing down sending me underwater for more.
Sometimes I feel like my life is uninteresting, like my life is moderately pacing along and I have this basic job and static routine and I’m bored, honestly. But today it feels like my life is running at one hundred miles per hour and I’ve just realized that I’ve been running for awhile and I’m tired but I can’t stop. How long have I been running like this? How long has it been since death started plucking people from my heart? I don’t even remember what my life was before the storm, before I learned how not to drown in it. Did I worry this much? Did I love people the same way? Did I smile differently? Were my emotions this intense?
I love a lot of dead people. That’s the thought that knocked the wind out of me this morning. I love them so much and they’re dead and they don’t feel it anymore. I think about them all the time. I talk about them all the time. I miss them all the time and they have no idea. Okay, sure maybe they’re in heaven and we will all get to hang out again someday but right now I’m on this planet that they’re no longer on and I feel alone. Why did I get to stay? Why did my life get to unfold further without them in it? For God’s sake Sam was seventeen years old when his life abruptly came to a close. My grandma died from a surgery she didn’t even need. Her heart gave up before it had to. Sometimes it feels like my heart is giving up, too. Sometimes I wish I could be wherever she is. I don’t want to die but I would kill to hug her again. I can still feel her warmth, I can still smell her hair. She was significantly shorter than me and when we hugged, I would bury my nose in her hair and inhale. Perhaps that was the last time I really breathed.
I force myself to think about them. I used to have Sam’s obituary hung on my kitchen wall. I would glance at his handsome face while I cooked. I would ask him where he is and if he’s happy and if it hurt to die and if he knows I actively love him every single day. I have my grandma’s handwriting tattooed on my arm and I often catch myself staring at it. I think back on the first time I read her “I love you now and always” and how trivial it seemed at the time but now it’s part of my body because it’s the last thing she ever wrote to me. How many “I love you’s” did I hear and forget to engrave into my memories? Why didn’t I love them this hard when they were here? I guess I did. But I obsess over the hours I spent not calling them just to say it. I obsess over the minutes I could’ve spent lingering in their doorways, having one more conversation before I go, taking in the warmth of their beating hearts.
I was laying on my grandma’s chest when her heart stopped. She was scared and I was sobbing and it wasn’t a beautiful ending. She was in the room the day I was brought into this world and I wonder if she felt the same intensity as I felt in the room the day she was pulled from it. I wonder if she imagined I’d someday hold her at the end of her life while she held me, watching my life begin. I wasn’t there for my other grandparents when they died because I didn’t have it in me. Sometimes my stomach hurts from the guilt and regret for my lack of strength in those moments. There’s a comfort in looking at someone before they die and assuring them that you’ll never stop loving them on this side of existence. Sam died alone in a car. I wonder if he was scared. I wish I could’ve held him and sobbed “I love you’s”. I wish I could tell him that last fourth of July our team won the annual beach olympics and he would’ve loved it. I wish I could tell him it was so cold and dark one night that you could almost see the northern lights from the end of the dock and he should’ve really been there. I want to tell my grandma that I’m writing again. She tried convincing me for years to get back into it and tell my stories. Grandma, I didn’t have a tangible story until the heartbreak that accompanied your death started writing one. I didn’t have anything to write about until loss opened up a hole in my heart where my feelings now pour from. I don’t remember feeling much growing up but now it’s all I ever do. I’m convinced that if someone could love me with half the capacity as I love, that it would be enough.
I used to worry about myself because I would sit through funerals and movies and concerts and weddings, dry eyed and unable to cry. On Friday I cried hard in front of a man I barely know. Feelings were pouring out of me faster than I could find words and I didn’t know how to stop. Grief has done many things to me. It has made me cynical. It has made me funnier, actually. It has made me love differently. It has introduced me to my soft side. It has introduced me to God. But most importantly, it has made me feel again. I don’t know if heaven is real but I think wherever my dead relatives are, they’re loving me back through the waves of emotions that crash inside my body. The waves are new to me, they’re sometimes dark and cold and other times they’re warm and comfortable and I’m still learning how to swim. The loss I’ve endured has filled me with an overwhelmingly deep love and I’m still learning what to do with it.