I can’t write a goodbye letter. It doesn’t seem right. Not because I’m afraid to let you go. I understand why you left. I understand how. It all makes sense to me. Soon it’ll make sense to everyone. But things happen in their own time.
It’s because you didn’t leave.
Physically, we both know the deal. You and I, like conspirators, know you left us days ago. That you’re on to the next stage of your journey. I take great comfort in that. You never could stay put and I know you’re not about to start now. I know you’re gone from here.
But I know you never left us either.
More than any other human being I know, you gave pieces of yourself to us. In every memory I can search, in every picture I can find, in the pockets of every story I have ever heard are smiles and laughter. The imparting of some nugget of wisdom wrapped inside a joke or a grin. Bundled in some other expression of love. Those things are a part of us now.
In our greedy fashion, we want to hold on those times, to make more of them, to keep them close. Our rational selves, the ones who accept the nature of our mortality, understand this isn’t possible. That emotional side of us is more insatiable. It’s never satisfied. It doesn’t understand you’ve done all you can do, that you’ve moved on. It doesn’t see you as a dynamic thing, a free soul but something static. Something we can hold and hold down, hold close, hold on to. Never let go. We want what we want.
But it’s not about us.
It’s about you.
In your own dramatic way (seriously, your timing could not have been better—or worse, for that matter) you made us stop our mundane existences of gift-giving and driving and bill-paying and working and agonizing over that next medical procedure. You made us stop. Stop and look at you. Stop and look at one another. As people. Not as those “friends” on Facebook or that aunt on the other side of the country or that cousin I have never seen with my own eyes. You made us stop. You’re making us stop. And now we have to look at one another. We have to see one another. As people. As family.
Like a beloved guest gone too soon, you are leaving a void in our hearts and our houses. And now we must stand in the doorway, staring at your departure, holding the hands of the ones left behind. We have to stop and notice your departure. We have to watch you leave. And like every beloved guest, you leave something behind. When we finally wander into that part of our house you inhabited, for that short period, we find an article or an item, a relic left behind. A scent. A memory. A smile. Something we can hold to in your absence. Something that binds us to you.
We have those relics inside of each and every one of us. And we’ll hold one another by the hand or the waist, clutch an elbow, cup the small of a back. Drop our weary and sad faces onto stronger shoulders. We’ll see you off, watch you fade into the black. And we’ll close doors behind you, feeling the pang of your absence. Share sad glances and wistful smiles.
And we’ll search inside for those relics of you. When we find them, we will smile. We will laugh. We will wish you well. And we will be alright.
I love you. I miss you.