“If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart. I’ll stay there forever.” –Winnie the Pooh
E. was one of the loves of my life.
I say that without any sense of histrionic hyperbole whatsoever.
I was infatuated with her, but not in the typical sense of the word. There was never anything sexual about my attraction to her, although in a weird way that probably only I can understand, there was a romance to our kinship.
My adoration of her was purely psycho spiritual. She was my hero.
And she loved me back.
I have tangible proof of her love in almost every room of my home, in my office, in my yard, things I can touch and see and smell. I have photos of us together and anyone can see in our smiles how happy we are to be together. Physical artifacts and evidence of a well worn relationship.
It was a love and a friendship beyond reason. Unconditional and rare. At least it was to me.
She was 32 years my senior, but our simpatico had an ageless quality. We spoke the same language. When she came into work singing “I feel pithy, oh so pithy!” I totally got the joke. And when I shared with her about the tiny and sweet moments of my life as a mom, she understood.
That’s it, you know? She loved me and she understood me.
And now she’s dead.
In the weeks since her passing, I’ve found myself asking that refrain from the infamous Tegan and Sara song, “where does the good go?”
Where is E.’s love in the wake of her death? Where is her unwavering belief in me? Where is her laughter at my jokes, along with her zany retorts? Where is her tenderness?
You’re probably asking yourself where my mommy blog went. . . It seems my space has become a darkened cemetery of posts. But it is what it needs to be for the moment.
I want to tell you about her. I want to talk about her. I want to repeat all of our conversations and replay all of our banter. I want to show you the cards she wrote me. I want to tell you how I stretched out over her grave, nuzzled my face into the grass and cried huge, fat tears and found it muddy on my skin when I came up for air. I want you to know I’m not crazy; I’m just grieving and I miss her.
I want to tell you how she changed my life.
I want to get all of this out of my system, and then I want to do it all over again.
I want you to sit and listen, with rapt attention that never wavers, even when I’ve told you everything for the hundredth time.
Because that’s what E. would do.
Maybe that’s why I go to her grave so often. Maybe that’s why I talk to her incessantly about my days. Maybe that’s why I play “Younger than Springtime” into the grass above her, wondering if the sound waves make it through the earth to the cherry wood of her casket.
Maybe that’s why I weep and look for signs everywhere that I can weave into the story of her and me so it doesn’t have to be over just yet.
Maybe that’s why I need you to hear me, to believe me.
Maybe that is why I need to believe that E. can still hear me.
Because in hearing me, she made me feel real.
She never seemed to care that I was desperately insecure, anxious, and mercurial as a Siamese cat.
She held all the parts of me I could not tolerate. She stroked them, smoothed them down until they were almost charming. She made me love myself just by sitting there with open ears. She allowed me to look at myself through her eyes until I saw myself the way she saw me. And gosh, I was pretty.
She was a captive audience. And so it seems she is now, even more than ever but it is in such a strange and intangible fashion. It makes me doubt.
The days pass. Most of the time I’m really okay. Most of the time I’m happy and doing what I need to do.
Other days, grief snags me with its sharp and mocking edge. I fall inward and knock around inside myself, searching for answers.
Who am I without you, E.? What would you tell me? How am I supposed to do this without you? When will I learn how to love after death, and will I keep feeling your love for me?
I know the answers, even though I don’t really like them.
There was a time I sat crying with a friend in recent days. I was frustrated and overwhelmed with life and had twisted it all up into an existential tornado. I was blessed by my friend’s empathy and patience with me in that moment. She helped to hold and accept the mess of me, and the nature of that compassion allowed me to connect, not just with her, but with a sense of universal constancy. Trusting her gave me the courage to trust myself, to listen.
E.’s voice came to me, clear as a bell.
We do not find you lacking.
It was what she would say to me to shine a light into my neuroses and set me at ease. Those were the words that answered every question.
They still do. It’s just that now I have to say them for myself, chant them until they are tattooed in my marrow, until my body resonates at their frequency. Then, I can laugh through the tears and know her with my heart, like I always did.