The word remember has taken on a new meaning since Phil died. Looking back is both painful and comforting. Sometimes recalling a specific event that I shared with Phil causes a jarring pain in my chest. These memories are often visceral...the atmosphere of a specific restaurant; the inflection of Phil's brother's voice; or the smell of a hotel room when you first pass through the doorway.
Each of these sense triggered recollections throw me back to a time when Phil was alive. The reality of his death seems doubly cruel when my senses convince me that only moments have passed since I last heard his voice. Four years later I am still occasionally thrown unexpectedly back in time.
On the other hand, the kids and I talk about Phil with ease, and laugh often as we remind each other of jokes he played, his very definite preference about any number of things, and the nicknames he gave to just about every item in our house. The lightness with which we speak about him has been a gift to all of us. The fun memories have become a treasure that increases in value with the passing of time. We mitigate our loss by savoring what we have left.
A journal entry, that I wrote just months after Phil died, screams out my frustration at having nothing concrete to hold onto after he left us. In those early days I wanted something, anything, that would be real. The visions of us that danced in my head were both excruciating and infuriating. Seeing him in my minds eye, but being unable to touch him, was maddening. I alternated between torturing myself by calling up every available memory, and avoiding thoughts of him like the plague...just to stop hurting for awhile.
I don't know exactly when I realized that thinking of my life with Phil made me smile more often than it made me cry. At some point I became capable of looking at a date on the calendar, and intentionally recalling what we did on that exact day 6 years ago, without feeling the need to lie on the floor in the fetal position. When looking at photos I could recognize the happiness evident in the moment, when years ago all I could do was bemoan the lost opportunity for more of that brand of contentment. All of this happened when I wasn't looking. So if you find yourself wondering if you will ever be able to look at your wedding photo and smile, you will. In time.