I have not felt your lips against mine for over two years. It has been almost a thousand days since I have heard your voice outside of my memory. And, it is starting like I knew it would. I am starting to forget your voice. I've tried to keep the sound of your voice clear in my mind by replaying our conversations again and again, but it just isn't the same. My ears have not physically heard you in a really, really long time. And, now, because of your absence, I can not remember the exactness of your voice. However, I can still hear you say "Hey, Beautiful" in the tone you reserved for me. I will remember the sound of your voice saying those two words forever. But, aside from this, and a few other words and phrases, I can't hear you for certain anymore. I knew this would happen. And, it is as awful as I thought it'd be.
It has been well over one hundred weeks since I have touched you. It's been far too long since your hands were on me. And, too long since I looked into your kind blue eyes. I haven't felt your gaze on me in hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of days. So many days that I have lost count. For me, counting does not serve a purpose anymore. Everyday, you are still dead. You do not become more dead with time, and I know for certain that you are not going to come back to me once I reach a magic number - so I've just stopped counting. In grief, counting is pointless. It is not like in a game of hide and seek where counting serves a purpose. I can count and then shout "ready or not here I come". But, you aren't ready and I am not coming to where you are - yet. Counting just pronounces your absence and makes me feel further from you and the life we shared together.
Love does not know time and space. And, I'm glad for this because this has allowed our love to continue across dimensions. I know I said I wasn't one for counting these days; but, one thing I can count on is Mike's eternal love. For certain, I know that love does not end when your person dies. Every now and then, when I am still, I can actually feel his love around me. It's nice. But, it does not compare to having him love me before my eyes.
Mike is gone from here, and he will stay gone for the rest of my life. But, somehow, our love for each other still exists. And, even though it has been two years and a handful of months since he died, he remains a big part of my everyday life. When I wake up, I turn my head to his side of the bed and I can faintly see his long, lost impression. I stand at the closet choosing what clothes to wear and the badge on his uniform shirt casually catches my eye. And, I remember. I remember how handsome he looked in his uniform that day, not so long ago, that he met me for lunch. I wish he could take me for lunch again, one last time. But, he can't. Mike can no longer do anything for me in this physical world. I sigh silently, then I continue along with my well rehearsed morning routine. I close my eyes and splash cold water on my face; desperately hoping that the water will jolt me back into the present moment. It doesn't because tap water isn't that powerful. Next, I begin putting my makeup on and I catch myself imagining Mike beside me. In my mind, he is standing at the sink methodically brushing his teeth. But, in truth, there is no one but me in the bathroom. He is not here. Somewhat, half-heartedly, I spray on my perfume and the familiar smells takes me back to a better place in time. Mike loved the way I smelled and I wish he was here to tell me so, but he's not. As I leave the bathroom, I stop and glance at the bracelet that he once fastened to my wrist. Then, for the briefest moment, I feel him.
In the kitchen, I grind the coffee beans. This sound will forever remind me of my mornings with Mike. I close my eyes and picture his strong, sturdy hands preparing our morning coffee. And, I want those carefree days back. I want him to come back. But, he can't. I add the water to the coffee machine and somehow I hear his familiar hum whisper in my ear. This reverie continues throughout my day - every day. And, I can say with authority, that it is exhausting creating a make believe future in my head. I'm tired of living like this. And, I'm not even sure if this qualifies as really living. To me, it feels more like existing in the well worn reruns of my old life.
When you build your life around someone their death weakens and destroys your foundation. The life you once knew implodes and you are left surrounded by the ruins of your old life. From the debris that was once my life I have salvaged some pieces of me that survived his death and I am using them to begin rebuilding my life. It is tedious work.
My life is completely different without Mike. The person I am becoming is not the same woman he knew when he was alive. His death has profoundly changed me. Yet, a part of me will always be his Girl. But, the thing is, being his girl isn't the same anymore. Being in love with a dead man is just not the same as loving a man who is alive. Loving him is what I do, but loving dead Mike is not enough. I wish it was, but it just isn't. How could it be.
So, now what. What do I do? I am not entirely sure. However, when he was alive, Mike told me many times , "Stace, one day you will wake up and look in the mirror and you will ask yourself what you want to do. And, the answer will be anything you want". Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. More times than I can count, he stood and said this to me. Foreshadowing for the win. So, in this instance, I guess remembering my former life actually comes in handy sometimes. I will move forward clutching onto Mike's prophetic words.
What else is left to do. I know that I have to earnestly begin to reengage in my own life. I need to learn to live again. I need to actively engage in living in this reality where Mike is no longer an option. I have to accept that he is long gone from here. And, I have to live a life that is far different than the one I had planned. None of this is easily done. But, I know I can do it nonetheless.
In order to successfully reenter life, I need to learn to live with the "missingness" that is present inside me. I can not try to escape it. I need to build my life around it because it exists wherever I am. It is a part of me. The "missingness" lives in me because he is gone from here. And, the yearning in my heart is not going to magically fade away. I think the best way for me to live without Mike is to learn to accept that a piece of my heart will always belong to him. The best way for me to live without him is to honor him as I move forward and recreate a life for myself.
I wish all of this was easier, but it's not. Slowly, I am beginning to understand that my grief will never disappear completely. Of course, it will continue to soften and the edges will smooth out. But, no matter how much time passes I always remember how it felt to have his arms around my life.
I will remember him. I will remember us. And, I am trying to figure out what I am supposed to do with all that we once were.