What If I Forget ….
His smell. His funny lips and the way they turned up at the corner. His skin.
His dry skin that always needed chapstick, and his back that always needed to be scratched.
What If I forget …
Those piercing blue eyes that became someone else’s eyes when he donated them to the eye bank. The way they looked at me. Through me. Into me. The way they saw my soul.
What If I forget the way he held his guitar pick, or how he looked so focused and intense when playing a new chord – a new song. What if I forget how he would make me sit on the couch next to him and listen to the music he had just created, or how he used my knees and legs as imaginary drums – playing each beat on them with his fingers and thumbs. The way my voice sounded when I sang with his melody. The way we harmonized in song and in life. The way that our marriage was like a duet. What if I forget ….
I’m scared. I’m terrified of forgetting. Living in constant fear of not recalling the large and the tiny moments of our time together. The only thing I have now – moments. Moments that are gone. Past tense. They live in my memory, and what if my memory were to fade away like the wind, like some thin tissue paper disappearing into the wind …
What then? For what is a life except for what it leaves behind? We have no children. No legacy to live out his name. No son or daughter to be like their daddy. Just me. The wife. The widow. The responsibility – the honor – falls upon me to make sure he is remembered, to make sure that his spirit and his beautiful soul lives on, to make sure that his kindness and his humor and his epic love of animals is seen somehow, in the world and the universe around me. So what if I forget? I could never forgive myself. To forget anything about him – anything at all – would be like a betrayal to our love. To his life. The worst thing I could ever do would be to not recall a memory. A fraction of time. A molecule in the days and months and years that we had with one another. The worst thing would be to go blank.
Will the memories fade with time? With age? Will I always be able to see him when I close my eyes? Can I shut off the world and just imagine all those times that he would slowly cover me with a blanket, or hold my hand while humming to himself softly, or pout his bottom lip at me when he wanted something? Will I be able to pull up, from the file cards in my brain, the silly songs we made up and sang to each other? How many times will I have to keep singing them to our kitties, pretending that they are him? Trying like hell to keep it burned in my mind, for all eternity …
It’s been 2 years now, and his clothes no longer smell like his clothes. They are just clothes. His guitars remain sitting in silence, because the music is not music without him, and I don’t know how to play. He tried to teach me a bunch of times, but I didn’t have the patience. He told me stories a bunch of times too – about his childhood, his days in the Air Force, stuff that happened at work while being on the ambulance. I never paid enough attention. I should have listened more. I didn’t know that I needed to imprint it into my heart. I didn’t know that his heart would stop beating.
I carry with me the 7 years we spent dating long-distance, and the almost 5 years we spent together – here – happy and engaged – and then married. So joyously and wonderfully married. My favorite word was always husband. Nothing I loved more than calling him my husband. So now, I must carry the sacred pages of our marriage with me in the spaces of my heart – and treat them with the most fragile touch. For if they should break or tear or get lost in the cruel, cold wind – and I cannot get back the pieces – I will have to re-trace each chapter, bit by bit – until I am able to find the things that were once our life. Our beautiful, precious life.
And what if I forget?
I will not forget.
I cannot forget.
Because the second I forget, is the second that he truly, really dies.