I just finished looking through our pictures again. Sometimes, fearing I've imagined my former life, I need proof that it all really happened. Italy, our house rehab, Hawaii, Yellowstone, the hundreds of pics you took of your beloved students scrolled before my eyes. I sobbed and sobbed, scaring the cat with the sounds of my heart breaking, and what I really wanted to do, what I wish I could do, was smash everything in the room to pieces.
I wanted to feel my fist connect with glass and hear it shatter, with the drywall and feel it crumble under my fist. I wanted to throw the computer to the ground and stomp on it until it’s in countless pieces. I wanted to scream and scream and scream.
There was our life…all of it. Our home, our cats, our trips, our jobs, our love. There it was in pictures. All of it gone. What acceptable response to seeing that could there be, if not destroying something? What other way could I truly relieve this fury at the senselessness of your loss? What am I supposed to do with this anger? With this missing you? What do I do now? What do I do with it?
Do I keep feeling it and let it take me down? Do I push it away and act strong so no one has to hear me say yet again how sad I am? How shocked I am that this happened? So no one has to know that nearly 2.5 years later, I’m still brokenhearted and completely stunned that you’re gone?
I scrolled through our thousands of pictures until I got to June 3, 2011. On that day there were two pictures. They were both of the bag that collected your pee while you lay in that hospital bed at St. Pete’s Hospital. You wanted to see the amount of pee in it to track your progress (your kidneys were shutting down, but we didn't realize it).
So you asked me to take a picture since you couldn’t get out of bed to see the bag. And then you sent a pic of the pee bag to some friends to make them laugh. Those pics were taken a matter of hours before they took you, the next day, away from me and sent you to Harborview Hospital.
You didn’t make it there alive, really. I never saw you conscious again. They said they’d gotten you stable, but then they lost you anyway. For a moment I thought maybe they could take it back. They could fix you.
I left you there.
Can you forgive me? I left your poor battered body in that fucking hospital room and I didn’t even go back in to see you or touch you.
Please forgive me. God, I’m so sorry.
The next photo was the only one taken on June 4, 2011 and eerily, it is completely black. A picture of nothing. So apt. On that day, the life I knew was snuffed out. Gone.
The following pictures, if they featured me, show the evidence of the darkness that had seeped into my eyes. I am not me. I am the outer shell of me, but I cannot find me in the eyes in those sockets that look like mine. It scares me to see those eyes.
Where did I go? Where did you go?
We had so much to do together. I’ve pushed myself to move on in my life, to not stop in my tracks or go backwards to be with you, but I’ve resisted it. When I do step into the current of life and it drags me ahead, I look back for you, but you’re fading and shrinking. I can no longer recall your smell. It’s so hard to remember your voice.
So little physically remains of our life together. It’s mainly just pictures now. I stare so closely at the pictures. I stare at your wedding ring. I stare at your eyes. I stare at your shirt and your jacket. I stare at your beard. I think maybe if I stare long enough. If I can see, like x-ray vision, through the computer, and into the picture itself, into the pixels, I’ll find you there. I’ll feel you again. I’ll hear you tell me it’ll all be okay. I’ll feel that safe again, like I did when you were here.
But you are not there, even amongst the pixels. You are not here. You left. And I am here. What am I to do with this? What happens to 15 years of my life? They’re just pictures now? That’s it? Pictures? It’s ridiculous. I don’t believe it. There must be some mistake.
And, then I have to get up from the computer and go about my day and it crashes down on me for the millionth time. This is my life now. It's not a mistake. You did die. I will live out the rest of my life without you.
My heart is broken. Sometimes I feel hopeful and sometimes I don't want to go on without you. Sometimes I can embrace the idea that I was so lucky to have had 15 years with you and other times I'm so jealous of couples who've had more that I hate them. Some days I still want to curl up in bed and give up.
Some days I think I can take on the world. But every day, every moment, I miss you and our life together. That never changes.You gave me the family I never had and always wished for. I know you didn't want to go. I know you'd be here if you could. I know you can't come back. I know it wouldn't be honoring you to give up.
I won't. I love you. You changed my life.