I stayed up. I was drained. I was exhausted. But I stayed up. It became my mission of madness. To anyone else, it was just a simple "Happy Birthday" but to Linzi...it signified another year of survival. I wanted to be the first to say it on a night she was perhaps at her lowest, and not just lowest that week...but probably her whole life.
Earlier that week I had her make me one final promise. I clutched her hand tightly in that dreary hospital room, my eyes searching those pools of green, a storm still raging in them.
"You're not allowed to leave me until you turn 27. You hear me?"
She nodded her head as she clutched my hand tighter.
I kept checking my phone for when the time would change. When the hour and the minutes finally turned over, I simply uttered, "Happy Birthday, baby." She was exhausted too. Struggling to sleep, struggling to breathe...struggling to live. She gave me a squinty, teary-eyed big grin and asked, "You stayed up all night just to tell me that didn't you?" I did...and I'd do it every night just to see that look on her face, too. I didn't have anything to prove. It's just what love does. It fights. Violently. Against all odds and circumstances.
I didn't know she'd die that day...or maybe I did.
A little over two years later, I sit in a mutely colored living room, flanked with pops of color from my sister’s decorating. It’s interesting to think how much has changed after what has felt like so much time. I’m now getting to a point of being more productive than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m missing our little girl right now who’s staying with my parents as I prepare to leave the country for a spell.
It’ll be the second time I’ve left the country since Linzi passed, part of the annual trips out of the country we’d always planned on taking. Here I was. Going all alone. Somehow I was content with that, in spite of everything. People have in times past, even recently, made it seem that we should never be allowed to be content again. To find happiness again. Even, to love again. I reject that ideology, and I refuse to aspire to it. I’m allowed to feel happy today. I’m allowed to be happy today.
Because it’s days like these where sometimes I forget things ended the way that they did, and it’s nice not to think about those things every so often. In the back of my mind I know, however, it’s still there. The sadness is still the same. The feelings, the love never truly goes away. Someone told me that you become like driftwood after losing someone dear to you, and I’ve found this to be true for myself. That grief is an ocean we’re simply floating in and sometimes it feels bliss and beautiful and other days you’re drowning in it.
For the moment? I find myself washed up on shore, waiting however patiently to be pulled back in with the tide.