A Warm Day in Winter

Death is never an ending, death is a change;

Death is beautiful, for death is strange;

Death is one dream out of another flowing.

–Conrad Aiken, House of Dust

One month. It was an unusually warm day in winter when you left. We awoke to slate skies that would churn into midday storms, as if nature itself was heralding your departure. I awoke, in particular, to messages from you. Hurried, “desperate” is the word you used, and confusing. But you ended it with, “I love you with all of my heart”.

“I’m not going to lie, you’ve got me worried. But I love you, too,” I replied.

You came into my life like a lightning strike in June, with all of the intensity of a summer squall. Our first conversations were so familiar, so quickly. Kindred spirits, we agreed. There was so much that ailed you, and so much darkness you surrounded yourself in. You could scarcely believe it when I said there was light in you, though I wanted you to believe it with all of my being. It seemed so foreign to you, that you found, in Shannon and me, two other people who believed there was more than just sorrow and pain. I watched as you blossomed over the months, physically and emotionally. From barely able to walk in Bonaventure without a cane, to strolling downtown Savannah arm-in-arm with me in just a few short months. Amazing work. We were so proud. So hopeful.

And I keep replaying all of those conversations and moments. Our first meetings, meeting your beautiful son and wonderful husband, you meeting my own son. Beginnings are beautiful, even if they always bely an ending. One of us will always leave the other behind, such is life, and a story old as time. We can only appreciate the moments in between. And God, I wish there had been more moments.

You constantly apologized for your intensity. You loved deeply, felt deeply. I do, too, which is why I think the bond was so strong so fast. Though while I am more ocean trench, you were crashing waves. Both cut from the same source, but one more prone to injury. In that juxtaposition we sometimes overwhelmed one another, but at the end of the day, there was no denying the friendship. I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone quite so fiercely protective of me. And you did things in my name that I wish you hadn’t, but I forgive you. I know it was out of love. You were always looking out for me, even at the end. “How long is your man with you this week?” you asked, and I was never the wiser as to why you wouldn’t want us to be alone. I am grateful for that, your last gift. At least we went through your departure together.

I think back to that day constantly. I find myself wanting to slide into the temptation of “what if”. I know it’s a door that cannot, and should not be opened. I will not open it. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t leaning against that door, ear pressed against the wood grain, fingers hovering over the door knob. Thinking maybe, if I listen for your voice on the other side, if I knock, there will be an answer. To know why. To reverse the clock and stop that burst of energy that would hurl us into the reality we now inhabit.

But I know better than that. Your door is now welded shut. And though I might visit from time to time, no key I possess will ever open it. So it is, and so mote it be, as you would say.

I really wish you would have stayed.

But you were allured to brighter worlds, and led the way.

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