It’s selfish of me to want you back, because the last moments of your life were painful ones. You weren’t yourself. You weren’t happy. You were frustrated. You were confused. You were suffering.
But that doesn’t change the fact that I miss you. I wish you were still around to have conversations with on early mornings and late afternoons. I wish you were still around to hug and kiss and exchange I love yous.
Of course, when I say that I want you back, I don’t mean I want back the last version I saw of you. The you inside of a hospital bed, withering away. The you who complained about how much everything hurt. The you who struggled to take a sip of water and eat solid food and remember my name.
I want the version of you from my childhood. When your memory was all there, when your strength was up, when your spirit was intact.
When your legs were sturdy enough to dance across the room during holiday parties. When your arms were strong enough to squeeze me tight after nightmares. When your lungs were healthy enough to yell our names down the stairs and complain about how we never listened to a word you said.
I want the version of you who would break into a smile whenever you saw me. Who would tell me how beautiful I looked, even when I was dressed like a slob. Who would remind me that it was okay to come by anytime or call anytime. Who would make me feel like I had the best family in the world.
I try not to think of you during your last days, because I know that wasn’t the real you. That wasn’t the version that you would want me to remember. You wouldn’t want me to think of you as a tiny body in a hospital bed or as a corpse in the center of the room or as a box being lowered into the ground.
You would want me to remember you as the person you were during your younger days. During the days when you hovered around the kitchen, cooking and baking until the entire house felt hot. During the days when you stuffed money into my palm and told me to buy myself something nice. During the days when you spoiled me rotten, because you loved me that much.
And that version — the kind, loving, peppy, happy version — is the only one I see. Every time I close my eyes. Every time I dream of you. Every time I tell a story about you. Every time I think about you.
I understand that if you were still alive, you would still be in pain. I understand that your death was probably for the best in a twisted way, because now you’re finally at peace.
But that is never going to stop me from missing you. That is never going to stop me from wishing that you — the real you — could come back to me.