Today marks the 8th anniversary of your departure from this world. I was a girl-woman when you left--had just turned 21, was trying to figure out life after college, was in love with a silly (silly) boy, was in the midst of trying to assert my adulthood but clinging to you as your little girl because I knew what was about to happen. I knew what was happening and I didn't understand what I was supposed to do next. I didn't understand what it meant to live without you here with me.
I remember so many things about that evening. I'll keep them between you and me. But the main thing I remember is just the numb, silent, stilness of my mind afterwards. What is this? What now? what does this mean?
In the years since your passing, I've thought about moments like when you told me I'd be okay if you were no longer living, and I got angry, but you just had this knowing look on your face that both scared and reassured me. I remember one time, long before you were sick, when you took me to your own dad's gravesite. I remember just being in awe of the idea that you can still feel so connected to someone after they are long gone from this world. In these past 8 years, I've come to understand. While I still wonder "What next?" all the time and have moments where your absence is a sharp, deep pang that just has to run its course, I now know one thing that comforts me: you are still here. It's just different.
You were there in that room, with your brothers and sisters, when I was sworn in last week. I could feel you. You snuck up on me! And I know that you know my own plans, and that I shouldn't feel any pressure to follow a path that you or any one else prescribed for me, but that I just need to cut my own path and not look back. I will. I am.
I just want to say thank you for your continued presence. This is a day--a season, really--when tears will flow unexpectedly. Maybe it will happen as I order my coffee or as I'm brushing my teeth or maybe, even, while I'm working with the kids in my program. But it will happen and it's okay. Because it is merely a reminder that your love is still so real and so relevant.
I will be crying because I wish I could hug you. See what you look like as you grow gracefully towards 60. Hear your laugh. Even scorn your advice. I will cry because I wish I could do this but I will also cry because, beautifully, I still feel you and I know you're here and I'm so thankful for that.