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I remember the day you left as if it were yesterday.
Until that moment in my life, I had known pain but never a pain such as I felt on that day. Your life had just inextricably been entangled into mine. Neither of us gave up too much but we gave of each other freely. And on that morning when I first woke without you, I lie in my bed without your head on the pillow next to mine and stared at the glass ½ full of water on the side table – on your side of the bed. The pain, on that day – consumed me whole and my world was simply black. I opened my eyes but I could not see. I could not move. I just lay there in nothingness. Stillness in the dark. Alone. Without you.
It took a while before I could feel again. I didn’t feel hunger. I didn’t feel tired. I didn’t feel anything. Except for the emptiness. I remember going through the motions. Make the coffee. Butter the toast. Hug all the people that came to the house for what seemed like months after you left. I just wanted to be alone. I needed to grieve you. But to do that, I had to be alone. I needed to be absorbed by my feelings of loss.
Six months after you left, I finally canceled your phone. I called it every day just to hear your voice. Sometimes I would leave a message that was nothing more than me crying. Sometimes I shouted in anger…to be left here without you. And sometimes I called it so often and so quickly that it would ring busy. A little voice inside of me was saying, “this isn’t normal you have to stop this.” Yet, I could not stop myself. Even after I canceled your phone, I had made a recording of your voice. I haven’t listened to it in months. I guess I don’t need to anymore. The sounds are so vivid that I don’t need to listen to it to hear your voice in my head.
I no longer beat myself up for all the little things that I made big things. I look back now and they seem so insignificant. But when we fought, you needed distance. I wish I had those moments back. I wish I could have spent every moment with you. It’s funny what you find important in life once the person you love more than anything else in the world is gone. I have a few of your shirts – I spray them with your aftershave. It makes me cry to smell your shirt ….but I can’t stop myself. I just wish I could still touch you inside it. Just one of those moments. I would give anything for just one more of those moments.
And laughter…I long to laugh like we used to laugh. At first, we laughed at something funny, and then at each other in the silliness. Sometimes we laughed until we cried. But falling asleep next to you in those moments was so incredibly peaceful and perfect. To know someone so deeply that you could laugh until there were tears.
Don’t tell me how to grieve! Don’t tell me I should get out more and make new friends. Don’t tell me I should laugh more. Or get angry and let it all out. Don’t tell me I’m strong and I’ll get through this. The only person in the world who knew I wasn’t so strong is gone. He was the only one I could be vulnerable to – he knew I had a crab shell on the outside but inside I was soft and delicate. I had no need to hide me from you – your love didn’t see strength or weakness, greatness or failure – you just saw me, all my failings and you still thought I was beautiful in the morning without makeup. How do you find anyone in life a second time who knows you like that and still loves you?
I see you everywhere. You are in the first flower in the spring, the smell of burning wood in the fireplace, in the chill of the first frost. I still write our names in the frost on the window of the Jeep. As much as I miss you – you haven’t really left. I carry you with me every day. I still curl my feet under you on the couch when I watch movies. I hang a towel in the bathroom for you. And occasionally when I’m alone, I still set a place for you at the table.
In the void of you, I have filled my life with your memories. The memories of how you smelled, how soft your lips were on my forehead when you kissed me good night, the way that you still opened the door for me. I remember how good it felt to wake up in your arms, surrounding me with comfort – but also that feeling of having given myself completely to you. There was nothing between us. Nothing hidden or fake, only two vulnerable people who somehow found each other in this big world. And one was taken too soon.
It’s been years. And that silly glass still sits there next to the bed. I keep it ½ filled as a symbol of what my life feels like since you left me. I think in some small way I still expect you to finish it. But just like you, it remains. Yes, I have made new friends. I go to all the familiar places without you. I am surviving in this world without you. But I still grieve. You meant the world to me and you are gone. And that can never be replaced. I miss you. I love you. And I wish you were here.
The holidays can be a difficult time for some of us but especially for those of us who have lost someone very important; whether it is from a death of a partner, divorce, or the loss of a friend, parent or child. I have many friends who are going through this – alone. It was the inspiration for writing this. Also, know that this writing is not about anyone in my life but an exercise to let go of some of the grief that I have carried with me over the years. It was just a story that I needed to write. For me, it is more about the love I have yet to experience than to have had it and lost it. But to my friends who are experiencing real grief this holiday season, I am here if you need to talk. Please reach out to a friend or a loved one over the holidays. Don’t be alone. You are never alone.
About the Author:
Julie is a dynamic, engaging change agent who brings integrity and passion to everything. Through her books, articles, speaking, consulting, and teaching — her purpose is to change the world through thought-provoking dialog and interaction. Julie has a B.S. degree in computer science from The Ohio State University, a MaED from the University of Phoenix, and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Management and Organizational Leadership in Information Systems & Technology from the University of Phoenix. She also is an ITIL Expert, Certified Help Desk Director, and Certified Governance IT Professional.
Julie speaks at conferences worldwide on topics of leadership, business, knowledge management, service management, governance, organization development, process engineering, service level management, and continual improvement.
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