I wish I could write with enough detail and poetic grace that you would have no choice but to rise from this page and live again . . .
I wish the thousands of times I’ve made that wish could make some sort of difference.
• • •
Do you remember those mornings when we used to stand in my parents’ driveway, and you would ask about college and my plans for the future?
I graduated college this year. Now I’m almost halfway through grad school to become a counselor.
It’s funny, really, because you helped me get accepted into the program, in a way. I had to write an autobiographical paper outlining events in my life that have shaped me and prompted me to pursue counseling. And I wrote about that day–
I wrote about you.
About how much guilt I felt, about how I bottled up all of the feelings and shoved them down as deep as I could. About how I probably should have gone to counseling myself after that, but, instead, I shouldered my own burdens and walked out of the Valley of Grief by the grace of God alone.
About how I compartmentalized that day, not letting it touch anything else in my life if I could help it. About how my freshman year of college was the worst year of my life.
And about how I now have a passion to walk with others through the worst days, and weeks, and decades of their lives.
So thank you.
• • •
Remember when we would stand around and you’d interrogate me about my boyfriend–how we met, what he was like, if my parents approved?
I get to marry that boy in less than two months. I wish you could be there….I wish you could have met him. You two would have gotten along so well.
• • •
Do you remember that day?
Do you remember how awful it was? And how the sun had the nerve to shine so brightly through the perfectly cottony clouds as if all was right in the world?
That was the first time in my life that believing everything would turn out okay didn’t make things turn out okay.
And I still don’t really understand.
I don’t get how the world can keep spinning when my world came crashing down that day.
• • •
I went to see you yesterday.
Well, the closest I can get to seeing you, anyway. I know it’s not “cool” to give a guy flowers, so I apologize for that. But it seemed appropriate.
It started out cloudy, but by the time I got to the cemetery, the sun was cheerily shining through the clouds.
I’ve always thought it was cruel and unfair when something bad happened but the sun kept shining like nothing was wrong. I always wanted it to be like the movies: the sky goes black and rain pours down as if all of creation was mourning with the protagonists.
I always just wanted to know I wasn’t alone in my sorrow.
I took yellow flowers yesterday–because yellow reminds me of sunshine. And the sun shining through the clouds lets me faintly hear you calling out your familiar greeting: “Mornin’ Sunshine!”
So I guess it wasn’t so bad that the sun shone down on us yesterday.
• • •
You know I left for my freshman year of college the day after you left us, right?
You know I moved away from home for the first time in my life and had to start over where no one knew me. No one knew the horrors I had seen less than 24 hours earlier. No one knew the size of the hole in my heart or the magnitude of the ache in my chest. Not a soul in this world knew I cried myself to sleep that night.
I went a solid six months hiding behind a painted smile and pretending I was okay. But, when I was alone, I melted into a ball on my dorm room floor, praying my tears would fuse my broken heart back together, demanding God tell me why.
Why would he take such a good man?
Why would he leave a widowed wife and fatherless children?
Why did He need you more than we did?
• • •
I know I’ve spent a lot of this letter wishing you back and focusing on the negative.
But I should really be thanking you.
For putting the frailty of our existence into perspective for me.
For being an example of the kind of friend I want to be.
Thank you for the memories and the life lessons.
Thank you for making certain songs more meaningful, as I see your smile in my mind every time I hear them, and for letting me hear your mischevious voice call out, “Mornin’ Sunshine!” every time I see the sun break through the clouds.
And, while I would still give my own life to have you back with your family, I know my wishful thinking can’t change the past.
• • •
Just know that you’re not forgotten–
Know that your memory reminds us all to be better people.
Know that there will always be ink on my ankle and a place in my heart reserved for you.
P.S. Can you talk to God about allowing visiting hours? I know a lot of us down here would appreciate it.