The word anniversary tends to invoke in people a sense celebratory happiness. It’s the mark of some certain beginning. The anniversary of a death is a little touchy though. I don’t particularly like calling today an anniversary, because it’s not a happy one. I try to look at it as a celebration of Jon’s life, but it’s the anniversary of his death, not his life. The latter I’m happy about. The former, not so much. But what other word could describe it?
The day was particularly unremarkable. I took the day off of work because I had a doctor’s appointment triggered by a stress-induced ailment. I picked my kids up from their bus stop, but other than that, I slept most of the day just to make it go by. I don’t have a particular subject to write about, rather a whole series of things.
I’ll start with the sad parts. Last night was something of an anniversary too. It was one month since I saw my Jon alive. One month since my life was turned upside down. Arguably, last night was far harder than today. I was flooded with the memory of that night. The brunch with friends. The intimate afternoon alone together. The quiet evening watching episode after episode of one of our favorite comedies, Archer. Most of all, the final moments we spent together and how they were the most tender I think we had ever had. The amount of love Jon poured out into words that night was more than I had heard from him in months. But all of those happy memories inevitably led to the ones I wish I could forget. The wheezing, the stumbling out of bed. The pained look on his face just before he lost consciousness. My nightmares have become sparse over the past couple of weeks, but that night played over in my head on repeat last night like a broken record. I thought about all that I lost and couldn’t quite seem to replace those thoughts with all that I had and all that he gave me the same way I usually am able to. I was angry. Furious. Why him? Why me? Why our beautiful girls? These things shouldn’t happen to families like ours, families who were good and, to so many others, far too perfect. Straight A students, loving exchanges, frequent adventures – we had what some people never find in life and in an instant it was taken away. But it wasn’t, only Jon. None of it seemed in the slightest bit fair. It isn’t fair.
I’ve been reading a book given to me by a friend called, something like, Why Bad Things Happen to Good People. It’s written by a rabbi and is a little preachy for my taste, but there was this psalm (or something of the sort) in it. It explained how the wicked are like grass – they seem to grow far faster than the trees, but they eventually die and wither while the trees continue to grow strong. The grass never surpasses the trees even though it seems to grow faster. The meaning portrayed in it is that bad people may seem to skate by life with little consequences for their actions, but the trees are the ones who win over the long run. Now, maybe this is true to a certain extent. This terrible thing happened to my family, but we have decades to be better for it. But that same book went on to explain that some people don’t live long enough to realize those rewards. So, maybe someday I might find love again and maybe it will be just as good as what I had with Jon – different, but still good. But what does that do for him. He doesn’t get to be here to watch the little girls he so adored grow into women. He won’t get to see them graduate high school or drop them off at college or walk them down the aisle or cradle a grandchild in his arms. He was robbed of so many things. If I continue to grow, that’s great and it’s what he’d want, but what about him? Where is his retribution? I’m sure there is an answer out there for me, but I haven’t found it yet.
Through all the frustration of the past 24 hours, there has also been some light. Humor actually. Jon died on July 22nd. The royal baby (in England) was born on July 22nd. My best friend began a sentence like this: “if you believe in reincarnation…” Since then there have been countless jokes about our Jon now being the royal diaper. He traded in this life for golden diapers. He sounds the royal trumpet every morning (fart joke). The list goes on and on. In the midst of royal Jon jokes, we told other stories. One morning he passed gas particularly loud. He did this every morning, but usually from the bathroom. I rolled over and looked at him disapprovingly and just said, “gross.” His response was priceless. “What, you don’t want this hunk of man meat lying next to you.” Then there were stories of him showing a bit too much of himself while hiking the Appalachain Trail wearing a kilt. If you wear underwear it’s a skirt. Need I say more? The kids said things that came straight from Jon’s mouth. He was everywhere tonight. We even had the Jon prayer before dinner: “Thanks for this food, now I’m going to turn you into poo.” It’s hard to be sad when he is everywhere we are. I don’t believe he is actually there. I don’t believe he is watching over us. I don’t believe he’s in heaven or even that he is the royal baby. I just don’t believe those things. But I do believe that he lives on in the countless lives he touched, the strongest of which being in me and the girls and our closest friends and especially in his family.
He left us one month ago, but he will never leave us as long as we love him. And for me, that will be a lifetime. I love you Jon and I will live every moment of my life cherishing your memory. Tonight I am taking my ring off of my finger and putting it on my necklace with his ring. It’s a small step that, to me, seems so huge. But he told me he wanted me to live should this ever happen. And damned if I let him down. It’s one step I can take for him toward finding the post Jon happiness he so desperately needed to know I’d find. I am not ready to go much further than that right now, but it’s a step and I take it for him.