I always thought dreaming of the deceased would be wonderful, and there was a substantial period of time, many years ago, when I used to wish for it. For those dream moments I wouldn’t realize it wasn’t real, my mind would recreate you as I remember, just as it would formulate entirely new memories. We’d be talking about something we’d never discussed, or be someplace we never went. For that alone, any disappointment suffered upon waking would be worth the moments of ignorance and indulgence. In all the years that you’ve been gone, however, I’ve never been able to force a single dream. Now that I don’t wish for it, now that it’s no longer on my conscience mind, you seem to have slipped through into the cracks of my subconscious, and not too long ago I did dream of you.
Unsolicited, there you were, alive though still somewhat elusive. Too true to my waking self I immediately wanted to ask you the questions I’ve wanted answered since you died. When I woke up, before I thought of how strange it was to have dreamed of you now, I was reminded suddenly and with that familiar, gut-wrenching pain how much I’ve missed you. It seemed almost cruel, that dream, as you didn’t even get to answer me. September, marking the beginnings of fall, is a time that reminds me vividly of my happy childhood, and mixed in with those memories of fearless childish enthusiasm is that fall you passed away. I know before I even remember, as I instinctively feel sad looking at things of beauty, trees, flowers, the sky, the moon, and I wonder why. I feel nostalgic and wistful, but I don’t understand it. Then, with a start, I remember the anniversary that’s approaching.
7 years. It’s hard to wrap my mind around that length of time, to conceptualize who I was then and who I am now. So much has changed, and I wonder what we would think of each other now. It’s hard to imagine anything you could do or say that would change things, but I wonder in the same way I sometimes wonder about my youthful ex-husband going about his new life. What we would think of each other now? Those teenagers we were, are we still there someplace? That’s the difference between ideals and realities, however, and you always were my ideal. When I speculate about it, all I can do is believe in your goodness. In light of things now, I have to simply trust that you would be the voice of reason. I can hear you say, “but it’s Lissy….” We all believed then that you were a better person than the rest of us, and I suppose we all still do.
I worried so much and for so long that I wouldn’t remember you, that you would fade and I would forget, but I shouldn’t have worried because that’s the paradox of loss. You have faded, and I can’t remember you the way I used to. It actually surprises me when a random memory pops into my head, and I think, oh, I’d forgotten about that. I also know that some part of me simply knows you, and if I heard your voice, or felt your presence, I’d know it in an instant, the way I recognized the back of my ex-husband’s head from across the room of a dimly lit bar in less than a second. It’s a knowledge that doesn’t know or care that I won’t see you again, or can’t hear your voice, it exists regardless, and I know that your personhood isn’t contained or confined to inconsequential memories of your jokes or our interactions. I can’t help wishing that I could use the power of familiarity I possess to feel you walking up behind me or to hear your voice over the din of a crowd, but that’s the great heartbreak of untimely death. The small comfort I can take from familiarity is that I don’t need to remember you because I simply know you, and that, unlike memories, won’t ever fade.