I spent some time reflecting back on pieces I wrote a year ago. So much has changed since that time yet thankfully my foundation remains the same.
I miss Dan.
I miss him everyday and all the time.
I went to the beach by myself yesterday morning before sunrise and sat there completely quiet and still. This 2015 to 2016 time frame has been a hard transition full of non-stop loss but for most of it I had Dan to talk to. He would always tell me that he was not worried about me and that he knew I would be okay. He said it in a way that made me believe him. I had no idea how much I needed that.
Yesterday morning looked like the photo attached to this post but yesterday afternoon I was sitting in an emergency room watching my friend have his face stitched back together after being assaulted by a stranger. Maybe it was the powerlessness I felt or the poignant muscle memory of sitting in a hospital room talking to a doctor about a friend or the overwhelming need to talk to someone who knows me well-whatever it was, it got to me.
I miss texting Dan first thing in the morning. I miss being of service while standing beside him and using that time to talk about everything that has ever happened in our lives. I miss sitting next to him in a hospital room for hours on end as we read through a book he has read 9,000 times before and watching him break into a huge smile when I would share what I thought a certain sentence meant. My answers would always take him by surprise and he was never embarrassed to tell me how I opened his eyes to something new. I miss hearing his voice. I listen to his last voicemail all the time. He was so positive and so calm in his message. He told me not to worry because he thought everything was going to be okay.
He was dead a month later.
There were these moments, these snaps in consciousness when I was with him, when the entire universe would shift. I was seeing with new eyes from a fourth dimension of consciousness that I had only heard rumors about and it was brutal and beautiful at the same time.
I miss Dan.
There was the moment when he came up to me in a crowd and asked me if we could have dinner that week. I knew he was sick just by looking in his eyes. He kept smiling at everyone but I saw real fear in his being.
That was heartbreaking.
There was the moment that I sat down to dinner with him that same week. I watched him hold back tears and begin to tremble. Instead of talking he slid a piece of paper across the table that explained his diagnosis and the minuscule survival rate. He asked me to read through it carefully and not to tell anybody.
That was vulnerability.
There was that moment in the hospital room where the doctor was asking him questions as he had done in front of me many times before. Only this time Dan interrupted him, looked at me and said ‘I have to get really honest with the doctor right now. I think it’s okay to do that with you here. I don’t want to ask you to leave. I want you here with me. I can’t pretend in front of you. Are you okay with it?’
That was intimacy.
There was the moment one evening when he did not like how someone was speaking to me and he intervened on my behalf. No one has ever done that for me. He apologized to me for interrupting me then stood in front of me and talked the other person into getting right sized very quickly. Dan suggested that he apologize to me. We had literally just left the hospital and he still had chemo pumping through his veins. Standing up was a struggle for him. He made standing up for me look effortless.
That was strength.
There was the moment when I told him that it was time to tell his daughter about his diagnosis. I did not want to say it to him because it felt as if I was admitting that I knew he was dying. I did not want to scare him. I did not want to cry but I could not stop myself. The tears and the words kept pouring out of me as he listened from his hospital bed. I told him that we had many good times together but that the most important moments between us were these right here. I told him that being with him during this time was a gift and that he should not take that away from his daughter. I stopped to breathe and he said ‘I think you’re right about my daughter. I’m going to to write her a letter and tell her what’s happening to me.’
That was acceptance.
There was the moment when I told him about putting my Uncle in hospice care. I could not believe what I was saying to him as the words fell out of my mouth. I expressed how liberating it was for my Uncle to make the decision to transition into hospice care and how he felt released and unburdened. I told Dan about sitting with my Uncle in a hospital room for three days and nights, sometimes holding his frail body and rocking him gently back and forth like a parent would hold a child. I told Dan that in those moments death did not feel like a tragedy. It simply felt like the next step or the next indicated action. At age 5 you cannot fathom what it would feel like to have the freedom and experiences of 15 year old. At 15 you cannot imagine what it would feel like to be 30 and have your own child. At 30 you cannot ever imagine having the body and the physical limitations of an 80 year old. But every step of the way it just happens. You take the next breath and the next step happens. I did not want Dan to be afraid of the next step. I wanted him to know that he was safe, perfectly safe, no matter what happened.
That was love.
Then there was that morning when I woke up from a dream that I was having about Dan. In the dream he was a white wolf sitting with his paws on my chest looking into my eyes. I emerged from the dream after hearing him say my name. For a second I was confused because in my early morning daze I thought he was actually there in the room with me but my brain knew that by this time he had lost the ability to speak and was in hospice care. I laid in bed staring at the ceiling because I knew he was dead. I got the call a few hours later.
That was connection.
I miss Dan.
I have a whole life to live or maybe I just have the next moment, the next breath. I try every day to focus on what I am grateful for but to say that it has been a struggle to move forward in the midst of some pretty big losses would be putting it mildly. Sitting on the beach yesterday watching the waves was just a reminder for me to keep things fluid, that everything in life is ebb and tide and that nothing we are given in this life is to be wasted. It is perfectly natural to contract during times of fear, anxiety, change and stress but it gets me nowhere. Those feelings and labels that I assign to life changes are an illusion. Good. Bad. Difficult. Scary. Sad. None of it is real. My perception can change at any moment. Life is simply a call to the table to feast and learn and share. Death is just a little bit to the left of that.
I miss Dan.
And if he were here the first thing he would say to me is:
"Did you write about it?"
"I come here to discover all the things I can live without." – Celsus Collini