The Longest Day
The hurt I feel inside seems unbearable but I know it is bearable in its very nature because after all – I am bearing it. I have questioned myself and everything around since the day my girlfriend died. Just last April she was misdiagnosed with stage III breast cancer. It should have been stage IV. We knew it was aggressive, but damn… just damn.
Today, no matter what I do it hurts trying to navigate this new life that does not include my love’s physical presence. The one I absolutely ache for. I haven’t felt it since the night of the summer solstice; the longest day of the year, the longest night of my life. The night she was taken from me in the blink of an eye.
On April 20th we were celebrating my birthday, on April 27th her doctors found that the cancer had returned, and they broke the news to us a day later. On June 20th she would make her final departure from this world.
I’ve found that apart from the time I spend with our daughter, I am having a hard time envisioning true happiness in my distant future. I can fake it for a time but I’d much rather not. I feel as though I’m doing my grief a huge disservice by constantly reminding myself that this too shall pass. Do I experience it in its totality or do I block out the most painful of memories. My logical brain reassures me that like cancer, pain, and subsequent loss of life, this terrible feeling that suffocates in the aftermath is only temporary. I decide to embrace this horrible grief because I don’t want to block out a damn thing. I don’t want to risk losing any precious memories or moments of our life together because although beautiful, they elicit such a stark contrast which manifests in heartache. I choose to bear it because I want to, I have to. I need to remember everything.
I awake to an empty house. One that seems all the more enormous without her presence filling it up. Everything feels empty except for my heart and my soul at losing their mate. She was a warrior who very much so wanted to live. She was such a fighter; setting dates into the future as few as a couple of days ahead as milestones for which she would continue living life to the fullest extent possible just to say, “I made it! Now lets do it all over again tomorrow.” She wasn’t ready to go and I wasn’t ready to let her go. The will to live is incredible and it is breathtakingly the most passionate desire I have experienced thus far save for the birth of our daughter. I feel such sadness one minute and relief the next at knowing she is no longer suffering. Finally free of cancer’s fucked up grip. She was brave and courageous and her will to live has left a permanent scar on me – one that I am proud to bear. Still, I am sad because there was so much that she wanted to do before leaving this world.
I know there’s this tendency, when loved ones die, to sugar coat their life’s work, character and contributions in order to lift them up even higher than that place we long for them to go to. As far as I’m concerned, there exists neither reason nor rhyme to add any such sugary coating. My girlfriend was the most unselfish person I know… and I know a lot of people. She had such a huge heart. The fact that she is no longer here hurts beyond comprehension. Every tender thought of her brings with it a blanket of sadness covering me from head to toe. I’ve cried so much my tear ducts are planning a revolt. Even they are tired of being sad. Something I’ve learned is that grief, like life, is not measured in the manner we wish it to be. It just is. It exists and manifests physically because our loved ones no longer can.
I knew that when I first met her my life would never be the same. It’s been a cool 9 years of ups and downs but mostly ups and I’d resigned myself to the idea that she would always be by my side. Come hell or high water. I thought she’d beat cancer for the second time. We’d take our dream vacation to Alaska, take a train ride to Arizona and then hike the Grand Canyon with her Park Ranger sister. So many things we wanted to do and so little time. But no… cancer had other plans.
I didn’t want to believe that night could possibly be the end of anything. I was completely unprepared to face reality. But now I’m reminded of something she shared with me the night of her birthday back in May. I wrote a simple entry in my leather bound journal based on that brief conversation that read, “Depressed.” It was in direct response to her gloomy declaration. She said she wouldn’t live to see her next birthday. I, of course, was indignant upon hearing those words. I adamantly told her that not only would she live to see it but she would live to celebrate it while being cancer free. What wishful thinking.
Instead, I watched my love slowly depart from this life. I’d been telling her at random intervals for days leading up to that day to not be afraid. “Don’t be afraid of anything, baby.” I’d say it so often and so randomly but I didn’t know why I was saying it. Nevertheless, I kept on saying it without giving much thought to the notion that she would actually be leaving me soon.
One of the major obstacles we faced at the onset of her cancer diagnosis was overcoming fear… of the unknown and ultimately – of what comes after. Because of her fear I’d say “don’t be afraid, baby. I’m right here with you, I’m not going anywhere.” She’d look at me and smile every time. I often wondered if my words had any effect on her. I think they did… for my heart tells me so.