I’m in a state of panic. This happens now and again – one of the frightening realities of sudden and shocking death. Sometimes a few weeks or months will go by with me able to escape the panic and anxiety. Then, just like that, something happens – or doesn’t – and I am shaking back and forth and my skin is on fire and I’m pacing the floors of my apartment and unable to breathe correctly or get a thought out.
I forgot the song. That’s what caused the panic this time. I was in bed last night with our two kitties Sammy and Autumn, that we adopted together years ago, and I was doing my normal (or abnormal, depending on how you see things) routine of singing to them all the songs that my husband Don and I used to sing to them together. The songs that we made up ourselves, and that we would sing to them as part of our nightly routine before going to sleep. As crazy as it might sound, I have continued to sing these silly songs to my kitties, just about every night, as they lie there in my bed with me, all cuddled up and ready to sleep. I want them to still feel like he is here in some way, like he is still and always a part of things, and for them to hear my voice singing to them those same notes and words that I would always be singing with him. It’s comforting. It’s ceremonial. It keeps him alive in some way.
Except I forgot. I forgot the words. I forgot the words to our song.
I was lying there, in the bed, singing to Sammy the “Sammy-Sam Song”, when all of a sudden, right in the middle of verse two, I forgot everything. All of it. My mind went blank. What’s the next word? How does that song go that we made up? How could I possibly not be remembering this? I sing this every damn night. How can I forget? But I did. And as I sat there, not remembering what came next, I started to sweat. I started to panic. My arms started shaking and my eyes began twitching. I felt like I wanted to throw up. I began to pace the room, back and forth, back and forth, trying to somehow jog my memory into finding the melody and lyric again of what we created. But it was gone. Just like that, it was gone.
Those of us who have survived the completely sudden death of our loved one, the kind of death where there was literally NO warning whatsoever – no illness – no good morning – no symptom – no anything – know that this is our greatest fear. Our greatest fear is that everything will just disappear into thin air, like they did. Because we know it can happen. We know that you can go to sleep and then wake up in the morning and your husband is randomly dead. We know what that is, for their death to feel like a magic trick or some cruel prank, and to constantly wrestle with the concept of how can someone be here one second, and then gone forever the next second? How is that possible? So we fear the disappearing of things and people, and we panic or jolt ourselves awake at the sound of a ringing phone, a door closing, an ambulance siren, and so many other things. And we panic when we begin to forget – because it feels like they are disappearing all over again, piece by piece, until they are just gone entirely.
Logically, I know I probably will not ever truly forget my husband, or forget the important pieces of him. I know I will carry him with me forever. But, forgetting ANY part of him, no matter how small it may seem to others looking in, feels like a punch in the gut or a kick in the soul. When the very person of him has been taken away from me, I MUST hold on so tightly to every piece that was left behind for me. They are like little crumbs of him, and they are all that I have.
I don’t want to forget anything. Not ever. And just the idea that I possibly could and probably will forget some things, sends me into fear and panic mode. Sometimes I have to try really hard and actually focus to recall the way he sounded when he laughed, or when he talked. The last time I heard his voice on one of the few videotapes I have of him, it sounded foreign to me, almost like I was trying to search for him inside his own voice. It was familiar, but felt far away. I know he is with me always. I actually feel him with me lately, now more than ever. He sends signs and I feel his energy around me all the time.
And yet, that is the problem. He feels so far away, even with the signs and the energy and carrying him inside my soul. I think it’s because I am tired of living in metaphors. I am tired of living in spirit. I am sick of feeling him in music, or in a good joke, or a new film he would have loved. I am exhausted by trying to locate him with every star and every moon, and every sunrise and every body of water. I don’t want him to be just ashes anymore. I don’t want to be writing a goddamn book about him being dead. I don’t want to tell his story over and over again, so that I can keep him alive. I don’t want to have to keep asking his friends and my friends and family, begging them, to give me tiny snippets of him – to please tell me about that time that he did that thing or said that thing – please help me keep him relevant because I cant do this alone anymore – I don’t want to be desperately singing songs to our cats because we don’t have children and I have nobody’s eyes to look into that look like daddy’s or that act as evidence that he was here. I don’t want any of that. It’s been four years of trying to find him in a gust of wind or a guitar solo, and I want more, dammit. I want so much more.
I just want him to be human again. I just want him to be my husband.