Before you were sick, I did not appreciate anything enough. I didn’t appreciate the good mornings, the good nights; I didn’t cherish the fact that even if I didn’t call you, I knew your simple routine. You would eat your low-carb dinner, drink your $11 wine, and fall asleep on the couch watching TV, like you always do, like you always have since I was a little girl. This was how it always had been, and this is how it always would be, even if I was 500 miles away from home on some supposed great college adventure.
But then for three months, you no longer did this nightly routine. Or if you did, I was no longer sure. I could not be with you to know what was happening, to know if you spent the night falling sleep on the couch or in a brightly lit, sterilized, lonely room. It takes three months for a routine to be changed; it takes a split second to realize that your entire life can be ripped away from you and you might not even be there to see the world burn down.
I cannot even begin to comprehend what the death of a parent would be like, much less the death of a parent when you are at least six states away. A million phone calls with you could never make me feel like I was there with you, during those crucial moments when I needed to be. If I learned anything from this experience, it’s that it is one of life’s tremendous miseries to not be where you need to be at the right time. It wounds the soul in the worst way possible, more so than the fact that no one was really there for me during those heartbreaking three months; not in the way I needed them to be.
Sickness is not something to joke about, and neither is old age. Hospitals are scary, but so is your college dorm room when you’re five hundred miles away from where you need to be. And you can only pray to God so much before you start to question if it will even help at all.
I really don’t know what to say to someone who is such an integral piece of me. I have grown up with your unconditional love and you have been there for me through it all. For my panic attacks, my existential crises, my heartbreaks; the preteen shame and the teenage angst. You were never not there, even when you were far away in Africa. You were there in the best ways possible, in ways that saved my life. You knew how much it hurt when our dog died; that he was more than just a pet, and that fourteen years feels like both a lifetime and a lightning strike all at once.
I love you like I love plane rides in the dark, like I love the first song that made me cry. I love you like all the sunsets I’ve ever seen, and so much more than all these things.
I am so afraid of the future that I cling to the past. Rafting down the Grand Canyon with you by my side was all I could ever ask for. Or hiking mountains in Greece, or watching sunsets in Africa, or skipping rocks through the salty summer sea in Maine. I cling to these memories from the past because I know that you will forever exist in these places; you and I exist in the mountains we’ve climbed, in canyon walls we’ve touched. You exist forever in the all the things we have ever done, in all the places we have ever been, and in all the hearts of people you have known.
This letter is not enough to give you when you have given me everything in the entire world that I could ever want or need or hope for. I don’t know what I want to tell you or want to give you. I don’t know if this piece of writing accomplishes anything at all. All I would really like is for you to come home, play me Paul Simon’s “Graceland” on the record player, and live forever. Together we will sing and dance and cry, but we will never die.
But instead of listening to Paul Simon, we will clumsily stumble forward, all together, hand in hand.
And I will go onward with the absolute truth that even if I lose you tomorrow, you will be with me forever.