I wrote this piece mid-February, 2023. I was in early stages of grief, had a cold I couldn’t shake, and was taking a class with a teacher in Japan, so 1 a.m. classes were messing with my sleep. I hadn’t written in weeks. But, one evening the NyQuil wore off around 6 p.m., and I drafted this.
First I thought it was good, then I thought it was complete garbage and it wasn’t really good, it just felt good to write because I hadn’t been writing. But, I REALLY knew we can never be objective about our own work, so I did what I always do in these situations. Sent it to my critique partner (CP), Dawn Downey.
Dawn and I came to an agreement years ago that it is not our job to decide if something is good or not, it is our job to turn our work in to our CP. Our CP is smart and tells us the truth and won’t let us send crap out into the world. You can thank Dawn for me sharing this piece.
Also, if you emailed me from mid-January through March & I haven’t responded yet, I’m sorry. Digging my way out of e-mail is on my to-do list & I appreciate your patience.
Through the Foreshadows
I didn’t tell you the whole story.
I didn’t tell you the whole story because they aren’t stories that happened to me. The stories happened around me; I was the secondary supporting cast. The best-friend cousin. The diligent daughter. The unexpected goddaughter.
I didn’t tell you the whole story because I’m tired of people looking at me with that stupid oh-that’s-awful-you-poor-poor-thing face. Because I am not a poor, poor thing, and neither are the three who are no longer here.
I didn’t tell you the whole story because in their last months all the three wanted was to be treated like they were still alive, but so many people treated them like they were dying. I wanted to be the person who treated them like normal. Like they would respond to the next text, answer the next call, laugh at the inside joke, or cook me my favorite dinner next time I came over. I wanted to be the person who treated them like there would be a next time.
But I did tell you, “December of 2021, the notice of death showed up three weeks in a row. As I faced impending loss after loss of people I loved, I concluded one was only given… this if they’re supposed to be learning something.”
One. December 2021. Learn to focus on the lives that are left and people who are still here.
Two. June 2022. Learn you are one of the lives that are left; you are top priority. Learn people will ask more of you than you have the capacity to give; their confusion and disappointment is theirs and theirs alone. Learn to be kind to yourself, so you can keep the commitments that matter most in final days. Learn to take care of yourself so you can make it to the next part—the part where you get to live, because it has never been clearer that others would give everything to have that opportunity.
Three. January 2023. Learn to ask for help. Learn to accept help. Learn that not all help is right for you. Learn to say “no,” as you sense the unspoken expectation you cannot and do not want to fulfill. Learn to simultaneously disappoint others and be proud of yourself for keeping the internal promise to take care of yourself.
February 2023 my teacher said, “When a loved one dies, they leave the material world and can choose to take a family member’s pain and hurt with them.” And that explained so much. Because while I’d been feeling absence, it wasn’t an absence of the three. It was an absence of fear, insecurity, and what happens now? It was a feeling I should be worried or sad or some other desperate feeling, and an inability to explain to others that what I really felt was more myself than I had ever been.
I thought that absence meant something inside me had broken; and indeed, it had. But it was not a break down, it was a break open. Gifts of freedom from things that no longer served me and misbeliefs that would only slow me down en route to where I am supposed to go next. It is a story of loss, but not the loss of loved ones.
I didn’t tell you the whole story. Because the story isn’t over. Their stories tapered off in a place that will help me finish mine.