How We Keep People Alive, Even After They’re Gone

I once read that if a writer falls in love with you, you can never truly die. And if that be true, then my god, I will keep you alive forver.

The earth cried the day we lowered you into it, and I cried the three hundred and sixty-five days that followed. Yet somehow it didn’t seem to be enough. I felt as though I owed you more.

I find myself saying your name to strangers. I tell them you were the best human to ever live, and I’ll be damned if that isn’t a fact. It’s no longer up to opinion.

I find myself not saying your name at all sometimes, though. You know how sometimes you say a word so much, it loses all meaning? Is the same true if you never say it at all? Like somehow if I avoided your at all costs, you wouldn’t exist in my life, therefore your absence wouldn’t be felt at all.

I’m just not sure what to do without you in my life. There is an ancient Chinese proverb of a red string. Now, everyone you meet, or are destined to meet, is attached to a red string tied around your wrist. The proverb tells that the string will bend and twist, but it will never break. The only problem is, it didn’t say what happens when a person dies.

Our string formed on Halloween my freshman year of college. You were dressed as some character from a viral YouTube video, and people kept laughing at it all night. It was the best costume there, without a doubt. I wasn’t dressed up at all, which a lot of people made snide comments about, but you never did. You remembered my name from the start, and I remember thinking that I wanted to see a whole lot more of you.

Thankfully, I did see a whole lot more of you. I began to notice all these subtleties unique to only you: the way you flipped your hair whenever it got in your eyes or you felt nervous; the way you’d seek out the most quiet person at a party and talk to them, ensuring they were having a good time; the way you’d watch people every so often, as though you were observing how they functioned and operated. See, this was amazing for me, because I was doing the same to you.

Time passed in the way that it normally does, and the more time we spent together, the more I realized how alike we were. We laughed at the same jokes. We made the same jokes. We began to be able to joke without saying anything; we’d just look across the room at one another, and it would pass between us inaudibly, known only to ourselves. We talked constantly, and I looked forward to the weekends where we’d spend every day together.

Now a year has gone by without you, and I’m honestly not so sure how I’ve been able to do it.

I feel like a broken record, because all of my writings find their way back to you. It doesn’t matter how often I try to write something else — you always end up all over the page. This is the act of grieving, I know, and I swore I’d keep you alive, so this is how I’m doing that.

Because even now as I write this, I’m imagining your laugh, how it’d fill up a room, infecting everyone with your tangible happiness. I’m imagining the way you’d tell stories with such life and vigor, it felt as though I was reliving it with you. I’m remember the way you always thought you were right — which you normally were — but even if you were wrong, you’d convince us all that you knew what you were talking about.

You’re alive, in my memory, you’re alive, you’re alive, you’re alive. And as beautiful as this is — as beautiful as the nights are that I dream about you, no matter how minute the dream — it still can’t compare to when you were here, with me.

Every so often, I see something that reminds me of you. Or I hear someone speak, and they sound so much like you. I can almost feel the red string tugging on my wrist, as though to say: come this way, he’s over here.

I don’t know what happens to the red string when someone passes. But I’d like to believe it’s still there. I’d like to believe the ones we love never truly leave us. I’d like to believe we can keep them alive, if we try hard enough. So I will write about you until someone else writes about us. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

featured image – Lauren Rushing

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