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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Time Feels All Wounds.

Dear Josie,

When you died people assured me that time would help.  And it has.  No wait actually it hasn't.  Actually, time can go somewhere.

I remember watching the clock in the hospital room.  You know, the giant digital one on the wall I can only assume is there to determine the exact moment a baby is born.  Or dies.  Or is born having already died. 

I remember being so confused watching the minutes pass.  One after the next, so seamlessly.  Like nothing had happened to warrant the whiplash that would forever become my life.  It was almost laughable, as if sixty seconds were enough of a pause.  As if you had never been.  As if I'd imagined you. 

Someone told me that time would help.  Life will continue, Nora.  Give it time.
Only that's the thing, I didn't want to. 

There's this saying that time heals all wounds and I used to believe it.  Now I see that time is no equalizer.  Time heals nothing.   It complicates and deprecates and separates, and we assimilate, and time gets all the credit. 

Once a year I get out all your things and I hold them, and I smell them and I run my fingers over them and I think about the time that's come and gone and all I've missed and all I've yet to miss.  And it hurts exactly as much as it did two years ago.  I can assure you that time is no antidote.  No goal.  No cure.  Time does nothing for the pain.

This pain mocks the time.  Waves, like some passenger on a train and all the while I'm sitting just beside.  And we pass the time like offerings, until the pain grows blunted and the time becomes the thorn.  Until it's time that hurts the most.

And it won't stop treading and heaving and laying days between us.  And these moments are filled without you here, and I can't believe it. 

If there is a constant in this life it is time.  Time is the vow and time is set.  And when you die it is time who doesn't care.  Time that persists and makes promises it can't keep.  Time is what you wish for and what you can never get back.  Time is the bell and the break.  Time pays you no mind, and I can't forgive it.

One day, I hope to hold you with all other things. I hope to hold you when I'm holding your receiving blanket and not have to place one down. I hope to hold you with pink dresses and manicured toes and ladybug swimsuits.  I hope to hold you with other baby girls and still be able to breathe.  To keep my whole heart and mind open in those moments.  Open and present and full, with all the pain and the love there together on the line.  

And on that day I will know the truth.  That all the numbers will have changed, but it was me who did the moving.  It was me who made the promise.  It was me who never stopped.

Time can offer its suggestions,  I'll allow it.  Try this way or that or the next but it won't matter.  I could have died when you did, or eighty years from now and time will not have won. It will still be your face on the wall.

Say what you will for the time, it will pass.  Forward.  Onward.  Next.  But I am your mother and I assure you,
Time's got nothing on me.



Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Blind Side.

Dear Josie,

The other day a girl I've known since middle school shared an (early) pregnancy announcement:  "To hell with the superstitions!  We're going to share our happy news!"

To me, a superstition implies some type of silliness.  An act or belief that holds little warrant or reason.  During every softball game I would jump over the white chalk lines before jogging to center field.  I never leave the volume level in my car on an even number and I've thrown salt over my right shoulder (or is it the left?) a time or two.   Is there a reason for doing these things?  Not really, but they make me feel better.

When I was pregnant with your little brother all of that left me.  I had learned how risky a pregnancy is, that losing a baby can happen (and does happen) after the coveted twelve week mark.  Despite the example commonly used by medical professionals, I knew that losing a baby in the third trimester is more likely to happen than being struck by lightening.  Unfortunately, much more likely.  (I googled it.  It's  way off.  That analogy actually makes no sense.  It's crazy.)

More importantly, I had learned just how much a body and a soul endures when a baby dies.  What it's like to give birth to death.  How it feels to place your child in the dirt on a sunny day.  I learned that superstitions don't really apply to pregnancy.  That all of the waiting and the jumping and the counting don't help, because they can save you from none of it.

Your little brother is eight months old.  This means he has been with us on the outside, exactly the amount of time I spent worrying that he was dead carrying him to term.

There are many things that still hold a punch in their reminders of my time with you.  New car smell.  Big Macs.  Orange Juice.  (I haven't had a glass of orange juice since you died.)  But there are also things that remind of me of the second most traumatic thing I have ever endured:  my subsequent pregnancy with your little brother. 

To say your death was freeing would be true, but it would also be misleading.  During my "rainbow" pregnancy I was free-er, in a sense.  I stopped knocking on wood and crossing my fingers and I even held a black cat during my 27th week.  But if I was free I was equal parts paralyzed. 

There were songs I heard over and over on the radio those months.  Songs that I didn't want to hear only there was some weird, subliminal, telepathic OCD thing that seemed to freeze my finger on the dial.

"Oh don't you dare look back, just keep your eyes on me."  and
"This is my heartbeat song and I'm gonna play it." or
"Cause baby, now we've got bad blood" and
"Give it to me I'm worth it."

To this day the smell of Aloe Vera makes me nauseous.  I used it during every Doppler check.  Three pumps every time and I would slather and glide and listen as long as I needed to hear.  Typically this would range from one minute to twenty, but there were outliers.  

There was the time I checked mid-lecture because he hadn't moved since lunch.  Pausing the power point and asking someone to watch my room while I hobbled to the faculty lounge.  There I sat and listened until it felt safe to leave.  And I wondered if anyone else felt cruelly teased when they heard that beautiful sound.  And I wondered if they could sense the relief when I returned,  pooling next to my description of  vestigial traits.  The fear was so immense then that it had to be palpable.  I still don't know how I was able to focus on anything else.

It seems strange to think about all of that now, as if it were some other lifetime because it feels that way.  When I rock him to sleep at night, or when he pulls himself across the living room rug.  As we sing to him on the crowded recliner it all seems so normal, as if he were always a guarantee.  

Once a month I make it a priority to remember.  I get out the colorful sticker with the white onesie behind, and I take a picture with your bear and I remember what we went through to be here.  You and me and him. 

But I also think of her.  The woman out there right now in her subsequent pregnancy.  In her respective, pregnancy- after- loss hell.  Maybe she's contemplating quitting Facebook.  Maybe she's mid-doppler or awaiting a scan.  I think of her racing heart and the sweat on her palms, how she's positive something bad is coming.  And because I can't tell her she is wrong, because no one can, I say something else out loud.  On purpose.  Into the air. 

I don't say that it's worth it times a million or that everything will be fine.  I don't use words like "statistically" or "probably" or "close".  I say what helped me when you died.   Words that still help today.  Words I hear whenever I look at him, as they diffuse from his chubby arms into mine.   Mother, don't stop. 

I see you and don't stop.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Twenty Questions.

Dear Josie,

Five year olds ask a lot of questions.  These days your brother is all about the questions, and the comparisons.

Who runs faster, you or Daddy?
When Dominic is ten will I still be older?
Who has a bigger brain, squirrels or frogs?
Do I have more hair than baby Teagan?

Recently I was bombarded in the car, yet again, by a series of inquiries most definitely tied to his observations that day.  His last question, or rather, his response to my response hasn't left me since.

"Who do you love more, your school kids or me?"

I love you more.

"That's not nice to say."

It's okay for mommies to say that.

"But you love Josie most of all."

I glanced back to see him then, eyes out the window and his hand pointed up.  To the sky.

It must be a parent's worst nightmare.  The thought that one of their children might feel less loved than another.  Only of course I know what their worst nightmare really is, because I've lived it. 

Still, it's definitely within the nightmare realm, that thought, and it got me thinking.  I want him to know things about love.  I want him to know that it can be limitless,  it can be unconditional.  I want him to know that there is no substitute for love, not money or words or things.  I want him to know that love is sometimes painful and always risky.  That it can be jarring and complicated but almost always leaves you better.  I want him to understand that you can love someone more than yourself, and I want him to feel that from your father and me.  But I never want him to feel unloved, or less loved.  I never want them to feel like they aren't enough for me and I fear that they will sometimes,  in your memory.  I fear that so much and today it manifested in my slanted rearview. 

I wonder what the balance is.  I want them to speak of you.  I want them to know that it's okay to talk about you despite the stares and the cringes they are too young to understand now, but will most certainly understand later and I want them not to stop.  I want them to keep talking.  But I wonder if they will ever ask themselves why there's no mantle for them in our living room.  Why I get angry when your footprint frame falls over but not when they brake the vase.  Why it's your name on my wrist and not theirs.

When they ask me I will assure them of the truth: which happens to be that I love you all the same and that it happens to be more than life.  I will tell them that a love that big can be scary.  Petrifying and that you have to be brave to live it, brave to give that kind of love to someone. 

I will tell them how a love like that never quits.  Doesn't stop when a heart does.  Doesn't waver when we do.  How I watched it grow on flickering screens, black and white photos that clung to my insides and shiny refrigerator doors.  How I watched it move my skin and cotton t-shirts.  How a love like that changes the mind and the marrow and  how I cradled that love.  How it spoke to me and how I sang it.  How I knew it. 

I'll tell them what I realized when you died.    How it pained me and stretched me in every possible way, and molded me into someone else.  To touch the visible parts of that love, so deprived and blue and dead, but how I still felt the other parts so completely.  How the bigger parts never left me.  That love so intact, as though nothing had changed.

And they will see that your mantle is the memory, the picture in my mind of the most beautiful girl who taught the most beautiful lesson.  And how the ink is the reminder that a life can end with death but that a love doesn't have to.

Love doesn't have to.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

We Don't Stop Where It Hurts.

Dear Josie,

I woke up tired today. 

It was definitely one of those days where if I didn't have to work, I would still be in bed.  It's always exhausting.  The onward march of this life with the pain.  And lately, it seems I am always tired. 

Recently I was helping one of my freshman students with an assignment.  She told me that reading was a struggle.  "I have trouble with comprehension," were her exact words.

We began with her English 1 homework, a short story entitled, "Hamadi", by Naomi Shihab Nye.   Her assignment was to examine characterization and point of view.  Specifically, three paragraphs on how one of the characters, Saleh Hamadi, uses imagination and memory to cope with the struggles of living far from home.

I began to read aloud to her, something I never do with my Biology classes and it was nice. I liked the story so much that I was happy when she approached me two days later. 

"Could we finish?"

There were parts of the story that made me smile, and other parts that made me want to cry. And I probably would have, today, had there not been 21 other students sitting near me at the time.  Half listening and half not-so-discretely texting in my brief absence from their shoulder space.

There's the part where Hamadi quotes Khalil Gibran.  When he is asked why he never visits his homeland and insists that is incorrect.

"Remembrance is a form of meeting," he says.  "And I do believe I meet with my cousins every day."

Or when the main character, a teenage girl and an immigrant herself, describes the counselors at her school as treating"the world as if it were a yardstick and they had tight hold of both ends."

We stopped a few times, to digest all we'd read and soon there were ten minutes left before the bell and students began to shuffle their backpacks.  She looked at me.

"There's one more page,"  I asked. 

She nodded.  And I'm glad she did.

Because in the very last paragraph there is a girl crying, about a boy she likes liking someone else instead and Hamadi hugs her.  And he says something the main character will never forget.  And I read something I will never forget.

"We go on," he tells her.   "We don't stop where it hurts."
"We turn a corner.  It is the reason why we are living.  To turn a corner."

"Come," he says.
"Let's move."


Monday, January 11, 2016

Turn And Face The Strange.

Dear Josie,

The other day I got a glimpse of a past life.  Or rather, a life that could have been.  Or rather, a life that never was.

After school I always grant your older brother some time on the playground.  The afternoon goes a lot smoother (for the both of us), when he's allowed to run around for half an hour.  Also it brings me happiness, watching them play.

We were the only ones left, save for one other mom and her twin boys.  And her little girl.

She was toddling around, attempting to keep the pace with her older brothers and attempting to lose her mother just a step behind her, and she was so perfectly adorable. 

"How old?" I asked after a minute.

"She's two," her mother smiled.

And it was strange to be exactly where I would have been had you lived, on this playground on this day.  It's rare when that actually happens, when I get a close-up view of exactly what my life would look if you weren't gone. What I would be doing at some normal moment.  Picking up my son from school and helping my little girl down the slide.  Following your clumsy steps and holding my breath as you attempt the "big kid" stairs.  Only this was a very different day in a very different life.  Because I'm on this playground where I'd have been before, but I cannot chase you or adjust your purple stocking cap because you're not here.  

It's strange to have this other view.  A perfect image in my head always, of what could have been.  And it changes with time, evolves and grows with me and right beside, so vivid and so known only I've never touched it.  I'll never touch it and it will never be real.  A memory that never really was.  A dream that could never really be.

I kind of stared at them for a minute until it was time to go.  I didn't break down or anything but it's still sitting with me, a week later.  I don't think a lot of people in my life understand that.  Most can appreciate what it's like to lose someone.  To feel the sadness and the longing in such a moment without.  To be grateful for what once was, paving the way for where they are now but I live in such a concurrence with the guilt.  Each step is a gait I'll never know.  Every smile is a million I'll never see. There is an apology upon each breath.  A sense of failure as tethered and as permanent as the monkey bars you'll never climb.  A guilt that will never resolve.  As your mother, I can't allow it.

David Bowie died.  It was the first thing I read when I woke up this morning and it was the first thing I said to your father when he did the same.  I don't know why it's made me so sad.  I've never met the man, but I feel like I've known him.  Through his music I feel like I've known him.  My favorite would have to be "The Man Who Sold The World".  I used to sing it to your older brother at bedtime.  Since you died it's grown on me even more.

"We passed upon the stair.  We spoke of was and when
Although I wasn't there, he said I was his friend.
Which came as some surprise, I spoke into his eyes
'I thought you died alone.  A long, long time ago.'
Oh no, not me.
I never lost control.
You're face to face
With the man who sold the world.
I laughed and shook his hand.  And made my way back home.
I searched for form and land, for years and years I roamed.
I gazed a gazely stare, at all the millions here.
We must have died alone.  A long, long time ago."

When asked about the meaning of the song, Bowie said: "I guess I wrote it because there was a part of myself that I was looking for."

The song isn't about grief, but I've always found it to fit.   I'll never be who I was before but sometimes I see her.  Sometimes you feel so close that I could swear I know you.  In a smile or a song or a rocking chair.  Or on a playground.   


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Secondhand Cloak.

Dear Josie,

I'm still losing.

Last week I visited my (new) hairstylist.  She cut my hair and she made it darker, and she covered the gray spots in the front (seriously, why the front?), and she never asked about you because she doesn't know and because I never said.

Before you died I had a wonderful hairstylist.  I loved her.  Whenever I went in we would talk about our children, (she had two and I had one) and our jobs and our significant others.  She could always make me smile.  I loved the feel of the studio and the decorum and the pretty Christmas tree next to her chair in December, with the chic leopard print stockings and the glittery shoe ornaments.  I love the wonderful memory of taking my bridesmaids there the morning of our wedding, sipping mimosas and being pampered while listening to love songs.  I loved that I got to travel downtown once every eight weeks, to that sophisticated block with the very best little thrift shop right next door. 

After you died it became frightening.  The thought of pulling into that parallel spot and digging the quarters out of my purse.  Walking in and having her innocently ask about you, and having to say.  And although I haven't visited that thrift store since I was pregnant with you, perusing all the vintage tunics and mourning the size 6 jeans, something tells me that in there, now, it might be hard to breathe.

A secondary loss, so I'm told.  My affinity for cheesy baby shower games.  The taste of birthday cake.  My hairstylist. 

Some are more manageable than others.  And all feel minor, compared to you but none of them are easy.  None of them are fair.

It should be enough that my baby died.  I should get keep it all.  Everything else.  I should get to keep the casual morning conversations with the maintenance staff but I don't.  In its place, the memory of my first day back when one of them asked how the baby was and I had to say you died. I can still see the horror, sense the regret and the way they were so very apologetic and so very kind, but we haven't discussed the weather since.

There are the friends who were pregnant with me then, whose babies lived and whose birthday parties I've yet to attend.  Beautiful, perfect, growing little miracles I cannot see without feeling dizzy.  Strained relationships and awkward moments and empty spots on couches. There are the friends who stopped calling when I did. There are people who've said the wrong things and there are people who've said nothing, fearful of the invisible cloak I most certainly wear.  And every one is different now.  Less familiar than it once was and every one is a loss. 

And I grieve all of it.    Not all at once but definitely all of it.  At various times and observations I am forced to compare this life with the old one, and it mostly feels like a loss only sometimes it doesn't.

On the last day of school she approached me.  And she told me that she was sorry for my loss.  And she said that her baby brother died, some twenty years ago.  She told me they still talk about him and think about him, and then she hugged me, and then she cried.

As it turns out, her hugs trump any conversation we ever had before.  And as it turns out, they feel nothing like a loss. 

In fact, I'd consider them a gain.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Throwing Shade.

Dear Josie,

I don't like January.

January comes before February, and February comes before February 22nd, the day you died.  And the 22nd comes before the 23rd, when you were born.  Still.  And it's all just too much and I'd rather they not.  

One of my favorite song lyrics says: "Love is the shadow that ripens the wine."  And I guess January and February feel less like love and more like the shadow.  If that makes any sense. 

To be honest, this time of year has always messed with me.  It's dark when I leave for work in the morning.  It's dark-ish when I drive home.  The stuck inside longing for warmth and natural light all day and the messing with internal thermostats does a number on me.  But it doesn't help that this month feels like a warm-up, of sorts.  A cramming session.  Practicing all my best coping mechanisms and memorizing exit routes and covering all the sharp edges.  Preparing for the fall.  

Last year I was so consumed with the fear that was my subsequent pregnancy.  My rainbow.  Getting him to his first breath was a responsibility felt every second of those nine months; a task perceived to have fallen entirely on my shoulders.  I hardly felt anything but anxiety.  Hardly counted anything but days and beats per minute, nearly every minute, and I hardly ever cried.  Tears became fruitless.  Nonessential.  I remember feeling so very scared one morning and wanting to cry but putting on my shoes instead.  Only helpful, productive thoughts.  Only the paranoia.  Nothing more.

When your little brother was born you flooded me.  Thoughts of you on that February morning.  Thoughts of all we'd missed every time he smiled.  There was a week where I cried nearly every hour for seven days.   Happy and sad tears.  Tears of relief and guilt and exhaustion and pride.  Angry tears and hormonal tears, and "we're out of orange juice" tears.  I cried so much that I'm surprised I still have friends and a husband and lysozyme.  It was a time of intense release and it was close to transformative, only nothing has really transformed because you're still gone and I'm still sad.  And because that will never change.  

Gradually the flow of tears has lessened.   At least in the perpetual sense, it's just that I thought this second year would be easier.  A moratorium on the memories that leave me paralyzed in my room, and in some ways this is true.   It no longer hurts to breathe.  I can say your name aloud without shaking and I can listen to the Strokes without crying.  I can reach into the depths of my grief to try and help others without feeling consumed by such a time.  Only I'm still consumed by such a time, because in reality two years is no time at all.  Two years is a blip on the scale of a lifetime without you. A minuscule, laughable interval. 

So maybe I'm sad because these days feel less like a training and more like a memory. A glimpse into an older life, seen not so long ago in these same hallways and kitchen tables.  A life of planning and hoping and smiling.  A life where I could feel you and know you.  A life where you were inches away.  

And I'm walking alongside it with you, in my winter coat and I'm just so unprepared.  And we never see it coming. 


Monday, January 4, 2016

We Keep This (Love In A Photograph).

Dear Josie,

I have a thousand pictures of a girl I don't know.

I look at her sometimes.  The face is familiar.  The eyes look like mine, so much so...that sometimes I could swear it was me only her smile is unrecognizable.  Sincere and straightforward.  Vastly different from the one I currently wear.  Labored.  Preoccupied.  Tethered.

What I wouldn't give to know her again.  What I wouldn't give to feel the way a skin folds upright without such an effort.  So freely, like there's nothing behind it.

There is this picture of us, before you died.  Our last holiday season as non-bereaved.  We were on our way to your brother's Christmas program and we stopped for dinner at Filomena's.  They started on the calamari and I looked to my left.

Something told me to take a picture.  Some voice or something, so content and satisfied and so intoxicated by the smell of the garlic bread, said to take a picture of this.  This right here.  There were twinkle lights outside and we were running late, and your brother didn't want to sit still and your father and I were arguing about the gas bill between bites but I can't remember the last time I was that happy.  I can't remember the last time I wished for money or clothes or a car or diamonds.  I can't remember the last time I caught my reflection and wanted to take a picture.  I can't remember the last time I wanted to.

So much of this life is wanting to move forward.  When you died I wanted to be farther from it.  I wanted to fast forward to the part of my life where there was a scab over you.  New flesh to cover the gaping hole that was my heart, to be nicked and caught and torn open again, sporadically, certainly, but to be mostly closed and mostly functional.  And that's how I would describe the girl I see in the pictures now.  Mostly closed and mostly functional. 

I miss the old me.

The laugh and the confidence and the non-bated breath.  I miss the girl who never held a dead baby.  I miss her innocence and her approachability.  I miss her daydreams and her conventional anecdotes.  I miss the black and gray plaid coat she'll never wear again.

The day after you died I observed myself in the mirror for five whole minutes.  There was a photo session at the hospital and then I walked into the bathroom.  I remember looking at my clothes and being unsure as to how I'd gotten dressed, how I'd managed the black fuzzy sweatpants and the white t shirt with the Budweiser logo down the sleeve.  I remember noting the differences then, the sudden alarm.  All of the creases and the colors and the apathy.   All of the proof that you had died, there in the glass in front of me. 

Something said to take a picture.  Take a picture of this right here, so that you always remember.  So that you never forget.  What it feels like to lose. 

What it's like to hold on.


Friday, January 1, 2016

Planes, Trains, and Promises.

Dear Josie,

I broke a pinky promise.

Your older brother wanted help building a new LEGO set, and your younger brother was hungry and there were papers to (still) be graded and two loads of laundry to fold, so I told him maybe later, buddy.

"Pinky promise?"

And I did.  And when it was time for bed and the LEGO droid/plane promise of 2015 was all but forgotten, it wasn't forgotten.

"What about my LEGO?"  He sobbed.  "YOU PINKY PROMISED!!!!"

And if it hadn't already been an hour past a normal, healthy bedtime and if I had taken a shower already that day and if I didn't still have laundry to fold and papers to grade, I would have built it right then.  But we didn't.  So I lay next to him for five minutes until he fell asleep and then we built it in the morning instead.

Three nights ago, your little brother slept in his crib overnight for the first time ever.  It was his seven month birthday.

I remember welcoming your older brother five years ago, placing him into that same crib the first night home from the hospital.  I guess when one of your children doesn't make it home, things can change.  Lots of things.

During my first pregnancy I was so happy.  So blissfully unaware.  It was the most amazing time with the most amazing ending, the one that every pregnancy should have.  And sometimes when I get to feeling bitter, I'm grateful that I got  to have that.  I'm grateful that I got to have a pregnancy like that, because not everyone does. And because I'll never have one like that again.

I remember being five months along with him, arriving home from work on a Friday and talking with my (then) roommates about our plans for the weekend.  I remember glancing at my phone, still on silent from work and seeing the seven missed calls.  Before I could dial another one was coming.  It was your father.

"I'm on my way to your house.  Your mom's okay, but something happened."

When we arrived to the hospital everyone was there, all of your aunts and uncles and their spouses and your grandfather.  I remember sitting in the waiting room and someone cracking a joke to lighten the mood, being mid-laugh when the surgeon walked in, a confused look on his face.

"Your mother has suffered a massive heart attack," he said, somberly.  "She is very, very lucky."

Everything changed then.  The room was different.  No longer jovial, no longer something we could ignore.  It became the first place I would ever imagine a world without my mother in it.  Later that night a John Mayer song came on the radio and I started to mouth the words.  I remember thinking that it could have been a very different drive home, and I remember crying.

Three years later there was another call.  Waking me from a dream at 11:19pm.

Your uncle had been found beneath an overpass.  He had sustained severe head trauma and was critically injured and barely clinging to life.  Come quick.

And  I remember there wasn't enough time.   There was not enough time to hastily stuff my pajama pants into my black UGG boots.    No time to brush my hair or kiss your father goodbye.  There was no time to waste on that highway, no time to prepare me for what I was about to see. 

But I remember the pull, in both cases.  I remember the rush.  There was a force pulling me to them, and all I wanted to do was to turn around but there was such a pull that drew me forward that soon I was running.  Running into ERs at midnight so fast that I lost my breath. 

There was no pull with you.  You were gone and it was so immediately final. There was no drive and there was no hope.   No stern doctor's brow to wake me from my denial.  There was nowhere to go and there was nothing to be done.   I called your father and I told him and I heard his heart break over the spaghetti, and when he said he would be there soon all I could think to say was "take your time."  Because there was time.  There was all the time in the world and there was no pull. 

I'm different now.  It sounds absurd to say aloud because of course I'm different now, but I'm just so different now.    I don't like to answer phones anymore. My blood pressure rises whenever I hear a ring, so mine is perpetually on silent.  I'm no longer afraid of hospitals.  I feel a strange comfort when I pass one on the highway and I always blow a mental kiss.   And I'm always kind of  half certain that he's going to leave me too,  your little brother.  Probably in the night when I'm not looking.  Or maybe sometime in the early afternoon when I'm distracted and I let my guard down, like you did.  I'm never quite sure that he's here to stay, and it's really, really hard to live that way.

So three nights ago was big, for me.  It felt like I was letting go, but I was also holding on.  To the ticking in my head that began when you died and won't stop until I do.  To what I told you that morning before we said goodbye.  How I wouldn't let this ruin me.  How I would always keep trying and how I would never, ever give up.  For you, I promise.

And every night when I lay them down and every time that I wave goodbye I will be scared, as they run from me into fields and schools and arms and limousines.  I may be conflicted and unprepared and terrified.

But I will also be keeping a promise.