Confession: I skipped my last Policy Process class to spend time with my sister. But in my defense my life as a graduate student is a constant struggle of juggling school, work, life, and mental health.
Family trumps education. At least for me.
My sister has this adorable child who is developing every day. And for fear that I might miss his entire childhood I recognized my need for some “auntie time” with him. Plus, I’m vying for his love, attention, and admiration in the face of his eight other aunts and uncles, not to mention eight or so more on his dad’s side. So, as you can see, I couldn’t pass up an evening with them even if it meant missing class.
John’s niece and baby cousin were at my sister’s house. Our families grew up together so I feel like they are my nieces and nephews as well. We shared a meal in the warm house, on a freezing December night, and the toddlers and babies played happily on the floor. Well not entirely, but their interactions were entertaining, to say the least.
As autumn frosted into winter this year I thought December would bring depression as it did last Christmas. But for some reason my foreknowledge of the potential to slip back into it has kept my head above waters.
But on this night, before I even arrived at my sister’s house, I knew the gathering would create remorseful nostalgia. And as expected it caused me to remember John. It was the sort of dinner he would have come to, with his sister and cousin.
I’m sure he would have been invited, but he’d find an excuse not to come, and then two hours in, he’d appear in the doorway with a cup of coffee and a mischievous smile.
* * *
The snow was falling as I drove home from my sister’s. Christmas music hummed from my car speakers as the seat warmer heated my bum. The quiet streets glistened from the neighborhood Christmas lights. Halfway home I started to think about John, not John when he was alive, but John today.
Because it’s difficult to fathom life after death, in vain I try to imagine what he’s doing up there. But the longer we spend without him, the more difficult this becomes. Is he making a new life? Is he outside of time, so far removed from the earth, that life before death is just a dream to him?
These late night ponderings always make me cry. For all that death is, the shock, the denial, the graveyard visits, and the PTSD, I can honestly say the hardest part of losing a friend is their absence. I sometimes wonder why I reacted so dramatically the night he died. Was it the unexpectedness, or the disbelief, or the fear? And then I sit there wondering why I revisit those thoughts so often, dissecting each moment to make sense of what happened.
One year, two months, and four days since John died. I’ve grown use to this reality in a sense. But the small things still trigger that painful remembrance. For some reason, dinner with my sister and John’s family caused me to cry. Holding his niece in my lap, her soft hair brushing against my chin. He would have laughed with me when I told him I’d skipped class. But in vain I resign to imagine what it would have been rather than accepting how it is? Just continued grief.