Two years have gone by since I lost her. That very thought does something in me that I can’t really put into words. It’s not that I’m just off put by that recognition or that it doesn’t feel like two years, though that is absolutely true. It’s more like the feeling you get when you know something is inherently wrong and, yet, you can’t really put your finger on why. How do I speak of time without her when I don’t believe that I–or we–are really without her? How can I speak of her being gone when everyday and every decision is shaped by her?
There’s something more than just the comforts of memories. Atheism has always seemed to me to be a religion of despair. Even when I had stopped, for almost the whole first year, believing in God, I was never an atheist. I couldn’t be. If memories are all we have, if good thoughts are all we really have of a person, then that is a cheap comfort. It is a comfort not worth the burden of grief and brokenness. It’s the shoddy end of an unfortunate deal where the victor says, “Well, at least you’re walking away with something.” Don’t get me wrong: I find solace in them at times and almost daily I come back to the most significant moments of our relationship.
But my memories are only half her, at best. I read all sorts of other things into them that were never there in the first place. No memory is pure, no memory is unscathed, no memory uninterpreted. They may be the best that we can do when forced, but it doesn’t take long to realize that our best is never good enough.
What I would give just to have a moment not with a memory or a picture but with her. The real her. The unscathed, pure her, the uninterpreted her. How utterly far she would be from a memory or a thought. I would feel ashamed and embarrassed thinking that my re-creations were even close. They’re not. She is so far beyond and above what my frail and selfish mind could ever create.
So I have to believe that memories are not the best we can do. You may convince yourself that they’re suitable for a week away or the time in between morning and evening. But that’s because you know that you will have the real thing waiting, the real person to reinforce them or correct them or fill them out later on. But when fate forces you to bid an nonnegotiable farewell, you must choose between living dissonantly with the facts or you must choose to believe that the real person, the foundation of that person, is not confined to fleeting and always changing dreams. She was never confined to my mind, my will, or my mental or emotional creations. She was free of them. And likewise, even now I cannot confine her to my mind, my will, or my mental or emotional creations. She must continue to be free of them and free of my projection.
That’s why even though I walked through a complete breakdown of faith, I could never be an atheist. My projection perverts who she was…and is. To say “Well, at least you have memories” is only comforting to the extent that you begin to wonder how much of the memory is really her and how much of it is really you. No, memories only comfort so much…perhaps as much as they torture. It is presence which heals, presence which gives hope, and presence which inspires. When I say that she is with us, when I tell my children that she is in their hearts, I do not mean that she is there in their memories. I mean that she is really there, though in a way I am inept to really know how it is possible except that it must be in some way akin to how God is with us.
To be sure, it does feel like two years of thinking about her and remembering her. That’s the hardest thing. The most continually elusive thing. But she doesn’t feel like two years ago. There is not quantifying it because a person cannot be quantifiable. You never meet somebody on the street and say “You feel like thirty seven years.” Even if they look it, they do not feel it. No. Despite the fact that time always is on the move, they simply feel like now. Because they exist and because they are with you, time is “incorrect.” It’s the wrong word, the wrong concept.
She is not bound to time in the same way that my loss of her is. She lives, though by a different force. She breathes, though it is a different air. She speaks, though not with audibility. And she touches, though not by hands. I love my memories of her, but they are a poor substitute for the real her. And it is the real her that I have to believe continues.
I miss you. Your smile and your laughter and your touch. I miss the quirks you had about you and the things that you would say or do that would get under my skin. How I wish that I could feel that again. I miss our fights, our intimacy, our struggles, our successes. I miss our dreams and our failures. I miss your uplifting words and I thank you for what you said to me last. I will never ever forget those words. I love you always.