When you know it’s coming, it’s almost like time hitched a ride on the fastest train South bound and you couldn’t afford the ticket, so you’re stuck at the station knowing that life is going on all around you and sometimes without you. And all you want to do is invent a remote to pause your whole world just to have one more Christmas without the bad news hanging over your shoulders.
Christmastime of 2004 is a blur. I can’t remember the details of the way the tree was decorated. Or how much snow fell to the ground. Or the songs that were sung. But I do remember the way time refused to be on our side. And I remember her bald head. And her green snowflake pajamas. And her pink baseball cap with the Nike logo on the side. And I remember wanting to hold onto her smell and her sounds. The way she laughed. The way she cried. How many times she told me she loved me in a single day.
As if I’d forget.
She’d been in the hospital for so long, I almost forgot what is was like to spend quality time with her. I wanted to make every second count, but she was content with laying on the couch and listening to me sing karaoke or watch Russell Crowe in the Gladiator for the hundreth time. And I felt guilty for doing the things I wanted to do. And I knew whenever she left the couch to go back into her room, she was too tired to tell me the truth — but she was sick. And I think she didn’t want to show that part. She wanted me to remember her as a smiling human being, full of life.
When people are dying, you want to walk on eggshells, careful not to say anything you’d regret — just in case they take their last breath in the following hour. But what you really do is shout really mean things at them, because you’re mad — but not at them. And you need someone to blame. And they’re there. So you shout. And then you spend silent minutes apart. And the following days, the days that are left, are spent holding each other without saying a word — and telling them you’re sorry by staring into their dark green eyes without blinking. And begging them to stay, even though you know they can’t fight any longer, but you’re holding onto the hope that is left. And you beg anyway.
As if your persuasion is enough.
And time tricks you. It gives you days filled with bright and beautiful mornings of sunshine and laughter. And then there are days filled with, I-don’t-want-to-get-out-of-bed-today-because-I’m-aching-and-I-feel-like-throwing-up. And there are days that time rushes you through precious moments. And there are days that feel as if they will never end, and you want it to stay like that forever, but you know that the sun must go down, so you don’t shut your eyes — hoping if you can’t fall asleep that Earth’s rotation will automatically slow causing the sun to stay out just a little longer. But you know it’s impossible, so your insomnia kicks in. And it’s a bittersweet night, leaving you with memories instead of dreams.
And then the snow begins to fall. And the world becomes so much bigger than you for the first time in your life.
I was able to see the enormous toll it was taking on me. And my world was changing. And she was dying. But at the same time, living. And I was terrified.
And then she was gone in the dark of the night. And for the first time in weeks, I could fall asleep.
And all I was left with was bittersweet memories.