Truth — You realize that you may be the strongest person you know now. That you held it together against all of your own expectations, even handled it well, considering. You realize that the only event you ever feared has happened, and you knew the moment it happened. You felt it in your throat and gut, felt it pulling at your teeth, scratching your eyes. You went to bed that night and woke up to the news. But you were alright.
Truth — Death is not uncommon. It’s funny because it happens every second of every day. It will happen to all of us. We know this. It is the one real truth that we do know. Why is it such a surprise to us? Why do we think, somewhere deep down, that it isn’t going to happen? Why are we never prepared? Our Families and Presidents and Favorite Bands will all one day die, though they feel so immortal.
Truth — Our parents and loved ones will die, and they might die on their birthdays, in a cold hospital. You will have set your alarm the night before and will turn it off in the morning because it won’t matter anymore. Nothing will matter except that you won’t remember the last conversation you had with them. You won’t save the last text message they sent you. You won’t know how to conjure up enough magic to save them. And they will go. And the world will seem so quiet. Their things will remain on the counter. Their voice on the answering machine.Their clothes in the basket. In ways too dark and sad to be metaphorical, they will never leave, but you will always feel their absence.
Truth — To your surprise, you won’t cry every day. Not nearly as much as you are supposed to. I think Emily Giffin said it best: “The initial stages of grief seem to be the worst. But in some ways, it’s sadder as time goes by. And you consider how much they’ve missed in your life. In the world.” You start to see life as a time line: before and after. With them and without them. You will be reminded, out of the blue, of a random memory of your childhood. A happy memory from “before,” followed by a stab of hurt because they were alive. And everything was just fine.
Truth — Life goes on. It does. It travels over that line, the flat green one on the machine and it keeps on moving. It journeys through your college graduation and your wedding, Christmases, Birthdays, your sister’s sweet sixteen. It’s not so hard anymore in everyday ways, but it hurts worse on a larger scale. You won’t know it at first, but slowly things will start looking different. And I don’t know when you will know what that means.
Correction, Nov. 02 2011: A quote in this article originally lacked attribution to Emily Giffin. (Return to the corrected sentence.)