The lasts

June 08, 2018 Candace Morris 0 Comments

Today is June 8. On this day last year, I sat at this very table in this very coffee shop. I awaited Kelly, who texted me 20 minutes earlier, "Hi you. Any chance you're free right now? I've just finished at the Tummy Temple and have an hour until I see Aylee."

"I'm at Cafe Kopi, come on up," I texted back.

She sauntered in, ordered a green juice, and flipped her hair as she sat down across from me. We'd never met here before, I had only just moved to the neighborhood and was trying out new coffee shops. She was impressed with the juice, and I was happy that my espresso wasn't bitter.

It was that day, that conversation, that cup of coffee...when the news really began to go downhill, gain momentum, fuel the worst anxiety of my life (and also marks the day I stopped drinking caffeine. Anxiety and caffeine hurt each other). Ever since we'd returned from Maui a month ago, she'd been fearing that her lungs were filling with malignant fluid. She was getting winded just trying to walk from one end of the house to the other and it was not improving. She would be going later that day for a scan.

She hugged me and sashayed off to her day.

Bad news came in. Worse news followed it. She died five weeks later.

June 8, 2017                                                                                   June 8, 2018         

I couldn't come back here for months following her death, avoiding the last place we were okay, when everything was fine.

There are so many things the same. It's gloomy today, just as it was one year ago. I am wearing a gray sweater, same as last year. Hair newly bleached, again, the same. I've been here several times since and it hasn't changed at all in a year. The traffic from Lake City Way continues, the bell on the door rings with every entrance and exit, my black decaf (sigh) Americano tastes the same. Motherhood is kicking my ass, just like June 2017.

And just like last year, I feel the need to fight but cannot find anyone's face to punch. There is no enemy here, just as there was no enemy then - not one I could battle, anyway.

Death would have claimed her at some point, just as it will claim all the hearts I love. I am learning how to live with death, but I am still ruined by the how, the when. The difference is that I know her how. I know her when. I would do almost anything to not know those things. To go back to this date one year ago when my worries were about wanting to be a better mom to Bowie, which I journaled about. Every single entry since then has Kelly's name in it.

Everything continued on without her, a feat I swore would be impossible.

But just like with Love, Death performs the impossible.

I feel my physical system going through these adrenaline spikes just like this time last year, when we were ramping up for...we'll, we didn't know what. I am ramping up again, awakening to phantoms, echos of bad news. Reports of this same phenomenon are coming in from the other women, too. The body does indeed keep score.

"The world was ending," texted Jess recently. "Because her world was ending."

Of course we didn't know that then, but we did feel the tidal wave of something approaching. And as the five-week countdown to the one year anniversary of her death begins, that inkling builds again.

Perhaps this is what to expect every year: a reliving, a reprocessing, a re-experiencing that my body must go through. Grief people say so.

The last few weeks, I've been happy. Curious, even...about these weeks approaching. What will they feel like? Making plans to commemorate so many lasts...the last coffee date, the last day she hugged Joel in the entry way, the last time she ate at my dinner table, the last text, the last voicemail, last communal meal at Niki's, the last time she and I spoke alone.

I miss her, so I wanted to relive it. I invited myself back into hell. And so here I sit, brick after brick of lasts piling on top of me.

Elizabeth Gilbert recently posted about loosing her wife to cancer earlier this year and it's haunted me ever since:

"Here is what I have learned about Grief, though.

I have learned that Grief is a force of energy that cannot be controlled or predicted. It comes and goes on its own schedule. Grief does not obey your plans, or your wishes. Grief will do whatever it wants to you, whenever it wants to. In that regard, Grief has a lot in common with Love.

The only way that I can “handle” Grief, then, is the same way that I “handle” Love — by not “handling” it. By bowing down before its power, in complete humility.

When Grief comes to visit me, it’s like being visited by a tsunami. I am given just enough warning to say, “Oh my god, this is happening RIGHT NOW,” and then I drop to the floor on my knees and let it rock me. How do you survive the tsunami of Grief? By being willing to experience it, without resistance.

The conversation of Grief, then, is one of prayer-and-response.

Grief says to me: “You will never love anyone the way you loved Rayya.” And I reply: “I am willing for that to be true.” Grief says: “She’s gone, and she’s never coming back.” I reply: “I am willing for that to be true.” Grief says: “You will never hear that laugh again.” I say: “I am willing.” Grief says, “You will never smell her skin again.” I get down on the floor on my fucking knees, and — and through my sheets of tears — I say, “I AM WILLING.” This is the job of the living — to be willing to bow down before EVERYTHING that is bigger than you. And nearly everything in this world is bigger than you.

I don’t know where Rayya is now. It’s not mine to know. I only know that I will love her forever. And that I am willing."

Meet me for coffee, Dove?


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