This week you’ve been on my heart minute to minute as the anniversary of our final kiss has loomed large. Flashes of the last week we shared as husband and wife have been spontaneously popping into my head with surprising clarity. There is no rhyme or reason to these recollections, and the bittersweetness of memory has both plagued and comforted me as the anniversary of your death has arrived with its usual inevitability
There are still times when your physical absence takes my breath away. It's surreal, even nine years later, that your death was the tragedy that escalated the local conversation about how motorists and cyclists can safely share the road. The image we use for our Share the Road campaign is an athletic, confident man in the prime of his life riding his bicycle on a gorgeous autumn day. When I stumble unexpectedly upon the photo hanging in a store-front window or on a community bulletin board I’m shocked every time that the athletic, confident man is you. I know, I can hear you laughing at me because I created the damn poster! But boy does it still hurt to see you smiling at me from a foam board instead of across our dining room table.
As time marches on my imagined ability to know how you’d feel about any given topic has decreased. I wasn’t allowed the privilege of knowing the you that would be turning fifty next year. How would life experience have changed you? What surprising opinions would you have developed as you aged? Which long-term plans would have played out as we imagined and which would have evolved into new dreams? And yet, these questions don’t haunt me as they once did, because surviving your death has taught me that no dream is guaranteed. While that reality may seem a deterrent to creating new dreams, the contrary is true. Understanding the shortness of life has helped me acknowledge the value of the now in a way that was never possible for me before your death.
While you were alive, my life was incessantly driven by long-term goals, and far-off ambitions. I loved the life we created together, but often imagined how much more fulfilled I would feel when XYZ was achieved, or when we were able to check-off the next goal on our ten-year plan. My head was so full of plans for the future that I didn’t take enough time to revel in the joys of the present. My one regret regarding our time together is that I spent too much time goal-setting, and not enough time life-living. No dream is guaranteed, which makes today an incredible gift. Saying good-bye to you taught me the true value of this moment, the only one we are assured.
For many years I have feared that the passing of time would slowly steal even more of you from me. I wondered if being unable to recall the timbre of your voice would lead to losing the ability to conjure the feeling of safety I felt in your arms. When I fell in love with Michael, I worried how larger-than-life you would find a comfortable place in my new life. As our family has grown, and new members added who've never met you, I felt a nagging concern that you’d be lost from our family history. Thankfully, your final gift to me has walked me through every one of these fears. I can almost hear you whispering in my ear, “This moment is the one that counts babe, don’t waste the joy of now by worrying about the past or the future.”
This may sound strange, but somehow you seem less ‘gone’ to me now. Not a day goes by that you aren’t part of my thoughts or conversation. You are everywhere instead of nowhere. As the memories of our time together get woven into the narrative that is my life, they become more colorful, not less. The memory of you has become a warm embrace on which I can count day in and day out. Your tall tales are legend in our family, and the story of your death provides the explanation for how Michael came into our family. My heart is so full when I realize that the two of you are connected, each with your own unique and important place, in our family tree. Stories about you come to me in the strangest ways, and the impact you made on the people around you is more obvious as the years pass. The love you showed others is a gift that keeps on giving, and I am just one of the many beneficiaries of your amazing spirit.
The irony of the fact that your final gift to me, the reminder to live in the present, was first imparted when all I wanted to do was live in the past, is not lost on me. I’ve spent years longing for one more chance to live in the past with you. Then I spent more years worrying about what pain and disappointment the future might hold, afraid to dream and afraid to plan. Years of my life have been spent not recognizing that for every moment I wished to live in the past, or feared the pain the future might hold, I was wasting away the only moments that are guaranteed.
My love, I want you to know that your final gift to me has not been given in vain. Nine years after you left this earth, I have come to understand that living for today is the best way to honor the past, and also to pave the way for a beautiful future. Irony at its best.
You are loved. You are missed. You are one of the most beautiful parts of my life story.
Thank you for choosing me,
***Special thanks to Sarah for sharing her writing day with me so that I could post my annual letter to Phil on the anniversary of his death. Sarah will be back next week. Also, many thanks to all of you for allowing me to share my journey with you. And in case you are wondering, Phil's favorite alter-ego was Pepe and his favorite nickname for me was Lolita.***