It’s been more than two years since my long-distance boyfriend, John, died. Every second of the first week after he passed was painful. I remember telling myself to just get through ten minutes at a time, and eventually, ten minutes turned into an hour.
There’s no time limit on grief. You can take as long as you need to go through the five stages, and for me, it took about eight months to accept John was gone. My coping mechanism up until then had been to think he’d faked his death for some unknown reason and would come back at any time. I’m guessing I’m not the only person to imagine that following the tragic loss of someone so young. John died at 29, just a few days before his 30th birthday. It’s so strange to know that I will soon be older than he was.
Over time, I stopped talking out loud to him and would smile at his memory instead of cry. However, there are still so many things I wish I could say to him.
1. It got better, but I still miss you.
At first, I couldn’t imagine my life without talking to you every day. I used to wake up every morning with a text from you, and that was the worst part—Waking up, looking at my phone, and remembering all over again that you were gone. I still miss you, and my favorite picture of you sits on my desk, but the pain eased over time.
2. Fear the Walking Dead wasn’t as good as you thought it would be.
Every time I watch The Walking Dead, I think of you. You’ve missed two seasons now, and oh, how I wish we could talk about it! (By the way, they did kill Glenn, in exactly the way we talked about.) You died a few months before Fear the Walking Dead was a thing, and it was definitely not as great as we’d hoped. You just can’t beat the original.
3. I’ll always regret not flying to California that month.
We were both busy that May. You were traveling to Arizona and back. I took a 10-day trip to Chicago, NYC, DC, Toledo, Detroit, and Denver. We decided to put my visit off until June so that we could enjoy each other more. I will always, always wish I’d booked that flight so that I could have one more kiss, one more night with you, and maybe, just maybe, the timeline of your death would have been different. Maybe you wouldn’t have been at the bar that night, but at home in bed with me.
4. I still reread your texts and listen to your voicemails.
I have the texts from your last week on Earth nearly memorized, but periodically, I scroll through years of text messages to remember how funny (and dirty) you were. I can even look at some of them without crying now. I’m so unbelievably glad I am horrible at clearing out my voicemail because I have 2.5 minutes of your voice forever at my fingertips. I’ve heard them so many times I can recite them.
5. I wonder what you’d think of American politics today.
You and I never agreed on politics, and it was part of what drove our passion. We were opposites in nearly every way, and I miss arguing with you, knowing neither of us would win, but still respecting the other’s views. The presidential campaign was barely ramping up when you died, and I guarantee you’d be surprised at who won the 2016 election. Each time something stupid happens at the White House, I wish I could talk to you. I think you would have voted for Trump, and I’ve come to terms with that. Haha.
6. You still pop up in my dreams, and I like to think it’s really you.
After you had passed, I was so angry I couldn’t dream about you. I’ve always had vivid dreams, and I just wanted to see you and speak to you one more time (Although, I know that would have left me wanting more), but my mind was so clouded and exhausted from the grief that it took three months for you to pop up in a dream. It still happens about once a month. Sometimes you’re in the forefront, while others I can see you in the background of some adventure my mind conjured up. I like to think it’s your soul visiting me, especially those dreams where you and I sit and talk on the couch.
7. I don’t regret a minute of our four-year tumultuous relationship.
It’s no secret you and I were off and on for a long time. Sometimes we hated each other more than we loved each other, but we always came back. You were always, and will always be, my “what if.” I don’t regret the fights, the tears, or the madness because we found our way back to each other. We connected in a way I never thought possible.
8. The butterflies your touch created in my stomach died with you.
There’s no way to describe the excitement and nerves the thought of you stirred up inside me. Even with the hundreds of miles separating us, your text messages and your voice struck a chord in me. That feeling died with you. I’ve tried to recall it through memories, but it’s as if a part of my being knows your gone and left with you.
9. The world, or at least San Jose, will always be a bit worse without you.
You were an incredible person. You were driven, passionate, loving, and kind. Though, few people got to see that side of you. You were a soldier who kept going, even when war stole a part of you. Up until your murder, you believed in helping people. I wish you had never tried to break up that fight, but you were doing what was right like you always tried to do. I think you were misunderstood by so many of your peers because you had this hardened exterior, which was so hard to chisel way. The world will always be a bit worse without John Flood walking the beaches and driving the streets of San Jose, California.
10. I think you would like him.
Dating was hard after you. Naturally, no one measured up, but then Andrew came charging into my life. We’d been friends for a long time, and he helped me cope the first few months by sending me funny memes in the morning, so I wasn’t as sad when I didn’t see your name on my locked screen. Eventually, friendship turned into passion and love. I moved to Michigan for him, because I know now how little time we actually have, and I wasn’t going to waste another minute in a long-distance relationship.
I think you would like him. He’s kind, funny, and loves The Walking Dead too. He understands me. We have a love so different than the one you and I shared, John. No one can replace you, and I would never want them too. You and I had a fierce, passionate love which likely would have fizzled out over time. With Andrew, it’s easy and feels like coming home.
I will never take him for granted as I did you. I thought you were invincible, but traumatic brain injuries make even the strongest men vulnerable.
I don’t pretend to understand what comes after death, but you were a Christian, so I like to think that you went to heaven. I also like to think that you get to look down on me and your loved ones as much as you want.
I hope you’re proud of who I’ve become in the last two years, John. It’s night and day to where I was when we last spoke. Most of all, I hope you’re happy and at peace, wherever you are.