(Almost) Five Months
Ana died five months ago tomorrow and, damn…I wasn’t going to mark the anniversary of her death every month, but I can’t help it. Five months. 153 days. Almost two full seasons. But who’s counting?
What do you do when the world stops making sense? Sometimes, you wait for things to take shape again–you grab onto the gradual return to normalcy until life is once again recognizable. Sometimes you adapt, grow accustomed to the strangeness, and learn to live with it, making it your new normal. I thought that this was how I would move on and, perhaps, heal, but my expectation for how I would live after Ana died was based on fiction. There is no moving on or through or past this. I’m in it. To some extent, I will always be in it. Nothing has taken shape in a way that makes sense. I don’t even want it to. The world is as foreign and unfamiliar to me now as it was in March.
When Ana died, it changed everything. It wrenched me away from safety. Her loss is too big to make sense of in the context of my old life. The foundation for how I viewed the world began to unravel on March 22nd and it’s still unraveling. I’m left with a tangled mess of thread that was once my life, my expectations, my hope, and belief in the future. It’s chaos and I’m not inclined to restore it to order.
There’s no way to go back, but for me the desire to rewind the years and relive Ana’s happiest days is, at times, overwhelming. It’s not just that time is a huge trigger—turning days, turning months, turning seasons—but that my own body is a trigger, the body that gave birth to her, nursed and comforted her. Her feet looked like mine. I can’t even look at my own feet without thinking of her.
I know that my longing for Ana’s physical self, coupled with my distraction with the past, is not the place to linger. Longing to have her back or to be able to travel back and relive the days when I had her here with me (just one room away) has the potential to trap me. I don’t want to get stuck in a place of despair and I know that Ana wouldn’t have wanted that for me or anyone she cared about.
So, while I reject the idea of ever returning to what passed as normalcy in my life, I spend the days striving to grasp the unfamiliar shapes of my new reality in a way that will enable me to move forward. If that doesn’t make sense, it’s because I haven’t figured out how to do it yet. I know that Ana hated the idea of being forgotten, but she also hated the idea of us “crying over her stuff.” How to reconcile those two things? Well, she’ll never be forgotten. I’m always listening for her, always talking to her. I know I’m not the only one.
But her things? Her space…
Yesterday I cleared out about four shelves in her room so that Emily could store her art supplies in there. This week, we’ll be removing Ana’s bed to make space for Emily’s easel and a desk where she can set up her supplies. I hate this idea. I love this idea. I suggested, gently, that maybe Emily would like to move into the room at some point. It has the best light in the house. It was totally redone a few years ago thanks to Maddie’s Mark. Emily rejected this idea at first, but when she saw those cleared out shelves yesterday, she sat down on the Yogibo and I saw her looking at the room in a new way. I hated that moment. I loved that moment.
I’ve begun moving some of Ana’s things to different parts of the house. A lotus flower votive holder and two of her throw pillows are now in the living room. Her favorite pieces of pottery are in my office or on various shelves and cabinets throughout the house. The purple throw rug I bought her in January will be moved to my office very soon. Other things are in storage (I can’t bear to get rid of a single book she’s read – not yet. I want to read all of them myself). Still others, I’ve given away (a few articles of clothing, knick knacks and trinkets to various friends). I’m still unable to empty out her closet. She loved her clothes and though Emily has taken some of them, there’s a lot that Emily doesn’t want. I’ve begun collecting some of the clothes that Ana loved with the idea of having a friend make a quilt out of a few cherished items (faded flannel pajama bottoms, a tie-dye shirt she found in Woodstock, a vintage skirt she adored). Some day I want to give it to Emily. Maybe when she has her own child.
And that’s how it is for me right now. I’m okay, but I’m also very, very not okay. I’m learning how to forge a new relationship with time and expectations. I’m ever-vigilant for signs of Ana. My love for her is as big as ever. Babs sent me the perfect text yesterday, at the perfect time–exactly when I needed it. I’m so grateful to have her as my friend and guide in this strange landscape.
“Here’s something I’m sure of: LOVE NEVER DIES. The weight of grief will not be as crushing for you at some point, but the intensity of love never, ever dies. Sadness, joy…it’s all part of that eternal love.”