It starts in the springtime, a heaviness that whispers “It’s coming again.”
As things start to bloom and the days grow long, I think of her last months, when her body was fading and her time, always short, ran out.
It’s different this year, maybe because I’m separated from her by both time and distance. We’re out of our home, hundreds of miles away from the pink petals of her Korean dogwood and the glittery walls of her princess room. A room that has witnessed your purest joy and deepest pain is more than just a room, just as June 14th, the day that marks the anniversary of something sacred and terrible, is not just a day.
I wonder if there’s been an hour, even one waking hour, during these last five years when I didn’t think of her.
I doubt it, this year especially. Time and distance mean that some memories fade and there are less physical reminders of her time with me. The work I’m doing though, caring for people with failing bodies and shortened time, makes me think of her more.
She’s there, in the hard conversations and the held silence when there are no words. She reminds me that patients are people with dreams and imagination and stories and that these things need tending. She makes me want to do more for their loved ones, because being a caregiver is harder than anyone can imagine. She helps me bear witness to suffering — because it gives meaning to my own.
And so we’re here again, another June 14th.
I’m at another crossroads as my fellowship ends. A new job in a new city will take us away again from the home we made with her. The thought of leaving it (permanently this time?) feels overwhelming, so I avoid it.
I know, though, that a physical home does not contain her, no more than her physical body ever could. I’m grateful to her body for the five years it allowed her here, and grateful that she is free of it now.
It happened five years ago today.