November seeped in like a cold draft beneath the door.
Sort of unnoticeable at first, until the tips of your fingers and nose are freezing and it’s already settled into your bones. The kind of bitter cold that’s hard to shake.
It was a quiet start, much the same as everything else has been: there was a routine that began to establish, home three days, away one. Ativan, morphine, gel. Pain. Good days and bad. Alarms set on phones, the hoisting of a frail body out of and back in to a pressurized bed. Wiping of tears and producing of some laughs, trying to hold on to what normalcy remained. It was happening, like that draft beneath the door, but I ignored it—there was no turning the heat up to make it go away. We gritted our teeth and dealt with the uncomfortable reality of the day-to-day and I, maybe foolishly, didn’t think ahead to what the after would be like. I still haven’t, not entirely. It had been a slow process, and yet an incredibly fast one.
I made a joke just two weeks ago to you and your neighbor as you requested a coke (I think you were trying to match hers, it was for show, really)– two weeks. You laughed, she laughed and you told her, in a slightly smug tone, that my sense of humor was thanks to you. It is, that I’m positive of. But there’s a lot of you I’m not sure I’ll ever be. I’m not sure I’ll ever be as kind, or as brave, or as forgiving. I wish I could be, but I can’t know it yet. Someone told me I was kind to be there the final days. Some told me I was brave to speak at the funeral, to give a short speech I’d written about you. But these things weren’t a quality in me—they were a necessity because of you. Because there was no alternative, unquestionable, unthinking. I acted because of you.
I’ve kept these thoughts at bay since you left, coping in one of the best ways I know how: avoidance. And while I know this isn’t the right answer for the long-term, it is for now. As a friend just recently told me, sometimes in life you enter survival mode and you need to do whatever it takes to go from one day to the next. Soon enough I’ll be back in thrive mode, but for now, we survive. That’s what November has been. What a stark contrast to September– how sharply this year has turned.
You said not to bring Bolt to the house one of the last days we spoke. You were afraid of the medication. I regret not taking him to see you anyway—I could have kept him safe from it. Things moved so quickly though, it was as if we seemingly had so much time left and then, like that, it was gone. The window had closed. I know you were fiercely proud of that little dog, as am I. Not being able to call you every day will already be the hardest thing, but not to share in your joy and pride of his accomplishments may be harder still. And yet, and yet..
You’re still here.
You’re in the trees I so love and the quiet in each evening. You’re in the laughter I still hold and the humor that came from you. You’re in the bravery I will need and the strength I will work towards. You’re in my writing and my photos that I wish I could keep sharing. My heart aches, it’s heavy without you, but you’re here. You’re still here, in so many ways.
And for now, I will take comfort in that.
(I know deep down you’d love this tattoo and the meaning behind it, even if you’d shake your head in that way that wasn’t exactly disapproving. Secretly I think you’ve always wanted one.)