Thoughts of Jack kept floating in and out of my conscious mind today. Lying in bed before drifting off to nap, I had a few vivid memories: what it felt like to lie in bed with Jack and to fall asleep wrapped around him (or he wrapped around me), what he looked like naked, what sex with him was like, what his hugs felt like, his smell. It occurred to me that, at some point, I won’t be able to viscerally remember those things. I can convince myself otherwise, but I have enough experience — raising children, anyone? — to know that the things we are certain will never be forgotten are innumerable in comparison to the things we remember. It had been a long time since I’d allowed myself to remember those things about Jack. Because, well, it hurts.
I’ve reached the point where I’m grateful Jack died. Well, mostly. And it sounds heartless, but it’s true. I’m grateful for his sake, because he was in such terrible pain and lived in such fear that it must have been a relief for it all to finally end. I don’t know what it was like for him in his last days, but I saw him a few weeks before he died and he looked as horrible as I’ve ever seen anyone. He wasn’t a happy or content man. He clearly had his demons and fought them to the death. Literally.
But I’m also grateful for me. My life has changed in such remarkable ways in the past nine months (year, if you count since I broke up with Jack), and I don’t know if I could have grown spiritually the way I have if he’d still been in my conscious mind as someone whom I loved who was alive and to be worried about. Jack being dead has been the hardest thing in the world to process, but it’s easy when compared with the daily angst of not knowing if (when) I’d get the phone call saying he’d died, the daily worry (even after I’d broken things off) of knowing someone I loved was in pain, hurting, drinking himself to death…and I’d chosen to walk away.
I’m a stronger person now, albeit one who keeps her heart in a slightly safer place than on her sleeve. I’m better able to make difficult decisions, probably because I find that everything is easy compared to losing Jack. I can talk about Jack and how much I loved him without crying, usually. I can be honest about the bad times along with the fabulous ones. And I can be true to his memory by being accurate about what worked and what didn’t, what I had the capacity to change and what things over which I was powerless.
That being said, I still miss Jack as much as ever, possibly more. I remain afraid that I’ll never find that kind of love again, yet I’m hopeful that it will come when I’m ready. I don’t believe the universe could possibly take such a big and important thing away from me without giving something in return. Anne Lamott says that when things are in chaos and upheaval, it’s because something big and beautiful is trying to distract us so it can be born. I believe this, though I’m not so keen on the chaos part. I don’t know why I can’t be distracted by a rainbow or a pretty sunset. Except that I probably wouldn’t be paying attention if things were hunky-dory. There’s something about disaster and hard times that keep you on the edge of your seat, wondering when the sea change will occur.
When Jack would spend the night at my place, I’d often read an Anne Lamott essay out loud to him before we went to sleep. He liked me to do that, and I enjoyed it, too, whether it was poems by Rumi or spirituality or chapters of The Time Traveler’s Wife (which we never finished). Thinking about this recently, it warmed my heart. I won’t ever be able to read any of those things again without remembering the way Jack wanted me to share them with him. “Read me a story,” he’d always say, in his oh-so-Jack way of speaking.
My sponsor says that grieving comes in bits and pieces because we couldn’t handle it if it came all at once. I think memories about dead people are the same — I couldn’t remember everything about Jack in the beginning, right after he died, because having that totality in my mind would have made me kill myself. The gravity of who and what I’ve lost hasn’t even become clear, not fully. I know I lost Jack, and that was (and is) a lot. Maybe one day I’ll stop remembering new things or start forgetting old ones, but one thing is true: he’ll be in my heart forever. It’s nine months ago today that he died, and I just needed to say it out loud.