I sat there and watched the clock turn over. I watched the minutes tick by in slow motion.
5. 5:15. 5:20.
My heart started to beat a little faster with anxiousness.
I didn’t know life after June 6, 2016, 5:25pm, but I was about to find out.
June 6, 2016, 5:26pm
What did I think was going to happen?. Did I think there would be a cathartic push through a brick wall of emotion? Did I think I would lose my breath, swerve off the road and throw up in a ditch then quit my job, buy a plane ticket and disappear? Did I think
something, anything would change, that there would all of a sudden be this “Ah ha!” moment and I would finally understand this hell that I live in? Maybe I thought, or hoped, that the world would slowly come to a halt, That as the 5 turned to 6 I would watch life around me pause. I would get out of my car and look up to the Birds stuck in flight above me, rain drops suspended in the air, cars stopped, humans frozen mid blink, mid word, mid breath. And I could walk among the stillness alone, but not alone. surrounded by the living, but this time I wasn’t the one who was frozen.
Then off in the distance, behind the sun, I’d hear the familiar sound of light up princess shoes, hitting the pavement with that unmistakable gait. The light would glisten off her short blonde hair and the sparkles on her dress and she and I would close the space between us with such urgency until we were tight in each others arms once again. Her voice would fill my ears with adventures and her touch would fill the holes in my heart that were forged when she went away. The world would stay still around us; There would be no sound but our voices,
Her brown eyes would lock on mine and I would understand. Whatever it is I need to understand, I would understand. And then maybe she would stay or maybe she would go. Maybe I would find out that it was all some twisted nightmare and I would have her back for keeps. Or maybe she would sweetly say all the things I need her to and I would say, over and over, all the things I didn’t get to say enough, then she would leave the same way she came; from the sun, and I would know that time would be the only thing that will keep us apart.
And then maybe I could move through the rest of this life with a little more hope and a little more lightness, knowing that, in the end, I’ll feel her skin on my skin, hear her words in my ears and see that face, that smile, those eyes with my sore and tired ones. That no matter what, it would all come back to her.
But it didn’t happen that way.
I sat in my car, driving with two guys from work. They were talking about riding bikes and mowing lawns and I watched the scale of time tip in favour of without her. The world kept moving, the birds kept flying, the guys kept talking.
Life didn’t stop and Lilee-Jean didn’t appear from the sunshine.
I pulled up to my apartment, parked my car, grabbed my things. I walked into the building and pushed up on the elevator. I rode silently to the third floor and walked down the hall to my home. I unlocked the door, entered, took off my shoes, hung up my purse. I took off my pants and opened a cold beer. I sipped it while I watched my dinner cook, stirring methodically. I ate in silence, cleaned up then crawled into bed. I could hear the clicking of the ceiling fan and the sound of people living around me. laying still on my bed, once again, I was the one frozen in time and I closed my eyes wishing for an easy transition from awake to asleep.
I said goodnight to Lil, but she didn’t say it back. She never does.
Yesterday was such a contrast in comparison to the weekend. On the weekend she was almost palpable. The love created by such a successful night of fun and fundraising, accompanied with a walk on such a beautiful Vancouver day with some of my most favourite people, and the total raised for Team Love for Lilee hitting just over $13,000, it felt like she was walking alongside me. Like she was there saying “I’m running!” as she hustled down the road.
Every hug, every smile, every word of encouragement and love by the 160 people who attended our event, were embracing me with her love.
Through me, my family, and all of you who donated, participated, shared and promoted, She made it happen. all of it.
She created the movement that brought all of us together to celebrate her and to help other kids and families have the ability to fight.
She was there. Even though she wasn’t, and my heart is full of so much pride, so much gratitude and above all else, SO much LOVE.
But yesterday, as I commuted home from a life that she has never existed in and the melancholic realization that from now on, I will always miss her for longer than I had her, that I will do more without her than I had the privilege to do with her, I felt minuscule and dark and broken and alone.
It wasn’t a sudden rush once the time turned to 5:26.
I slowly dissolved into the depth of my grief until the only thing I could get myself to do was close my eyes and hope for a way out.
That is life in bereavement.
It’s moments of joy and happiness and acceptance and then that carpet that you so carefully laid is ripped out from under you. Forcing a fall in slow motion, hitting the cold, hard abysmal reality of loss.
Does it take away from the extreme joy I felt this weekend? No, not even the smallest amount, in fact, it’s those kinds of moments that save me from not returning from the others. But it does, rather abruptly, yank me from my euphoria and back into reality. It nails my feet to the floor when I think I can finally fly.
That is life in bereavement.
There will always be moments that will bring you up, because that is life, but there will be counter moments that will bring you down, because that is death. Sometimes those moments will happen simultaneously. and sometimes they will be months apart. But there is a black to the white, a yin to the yang. For every elevated emotion there will be one dragging me down into the darkness and so I will continue to search for the moments that are worth it. The love on fire, the happiness that radiates from your pores. I will search for the elation that gives the middle finger to the darkness regardless of the inevitability of its triumph. I will push and claw and fight for those moments, and then I will surrender to the pain until I can fight again.
That is life in bereavement
That is life after 5:25pm.