6 Years: Death & Objecthood

September 17th, 2012 § 0 comments

With every year that passes I try my best to negotiate a new kind of truce with your death, to find peace in the lingering and everlasting grief, and each year it’s a different kind of truce. Six years now—I can hardly believe it—since you shattered my 22-year-old world, one that was cozily wrapped up in a kind of childish innocence about what life could, would, or should be. My childhood ended, and all things associated with it, mainly my youthful marriage, that lonely day years ago when you left. It’s not the immediate heartbreak of grief that scars us, but living with it year after year that leaves traces we can’t erase. Like the slow process of aging, the subtle shifts in our body’s abilities, loss etches lines that are just as permanent.

I can track my feelings of grief and see how they’ve changed over the years as some aspects of your loss become more or less vivid. I can sit here now, older than you ever were impossible though that seems, and I know how much my life has changed because of you. While everyone else seems to have found solace in your absence, beautiful truths in their loss, I only discover more and more all that your death has done to me. You’d probably laugh with some kind of brotherly malice at the idea that you’ve shaped the person I’ve become. Diane von Furstenberg said the other night, “the most important relationship we have is with ourselves,” and grief ends up being about coming to terms with our own feelings.

The peace I’ve made this year is intertwined with my new ideas on death and objecthood, or death, cemeteries, and gravestones. I can’t think of anything I would have hated more the first year or so after you died than a cemetery, plot, or headstone. It would have been torture, a constant reminder of the pain I was all too keen not to feel, and it would have seemed impossibly horrible that you, in all your joyful physicality, were buried somewhere lonely and sad. Watching a movie months ago I remember seeing that cliché scene where a family visits the grave of a lost loved one, bringing them flowers and standing there talking to them on a grassy lawn, and the image struck me as beautiful and compelling.

How nice it seems at this particular moment to be able to visit you, to see your name written permanently into the tangible world. I’ve love to make a yearly trek somewhere and spend the day with you, and do all those things we do on days like these. In a cemetery people wouldn’t ask me why I was there, they wouldn’t ask why I was sad, and they wouldn’t feel obligated to be awkward or apologetic. Granted, scattering someone’s ashes is a much more beautiful idea, and I never thought much about being buried, or visiting someone who was, until now. Like churches, there is something about a cemetery that allows for loss, for the things we can’t explain that make us feel very small. Despite my agnostic religious views I’ve always found that churches and cemeteries have a democratic feeling to them, and they are places that let us be sentimental, superstitious, and uncertain.

Every year I wonder what I should do to commemorate this day, how I can make it special or different, and every year it simply is special and different. It stands out as one of the saddest days of the year. The days leading up to it remind me uncomfortably of things I don’t allow myself to dwell upon, and the days after leaving me feeling weak and breathless. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, and the people I love are too, that your death has seeped back into my consciousness in a way that it hasn’t for years. Though I want to chalk all this pain up to some kind of learning experience, like a first pregnancy that leads to a better second, I know no loss, however great, will ever feel like yours. The world without you can be a lonely place, as much because you’re not here as the reasons that you’re not. This year I don’t want my memories, my pictures, or your songs. Instead, I want what all grieving people always want: the impossible. In my imagination I’m sitting someplace beautiful, like that cemetery in San Juan that overlooks the ocean, and I’m telling you all that has transpired since you left.

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