I picked up the phone that day and I heard the horrible words.
Shock waves went through the phone, into my body and rearranged my heart.
Somehow I went to the house I grew up in, walked in the door and saw both of their faces sagging with sadness as they embraced me and said, “He died. It’s going to be ok.”
I went to your viewing. I saw your whole body in your casket. Your eyes were closed and you were wearing the suit you wore to my wedding. I touched your cold chest, offered you a juice box through my tears. “Apple?” I asked, “You’re probably getting thirsty in there.”
I went to your funeral, saw your giant framed picture on the table where we gathered all your favorites – your fishing creel, the worn CU hat I gave you, your tiny toy cars and bouncy balls. I heard hundreds of people murmur stupid things in my direction. Heartfelt things, insensitive things. The message all the same, “So sorry he is gone.”
I received the texts saying your ashes arrived at our house and I could have some if I wanted. What a peculiar thing to want. I passed.
I watched your ashes float on the wind as we released your broken body in a valley. I saw your dust mingle with pebbles and grass and you landed on my toes.
All markers of this horrible truth – you died.
In the aftermath of shock, when the tedious, logistical to-dos were complete, the truth of your absence started to sink into my bones.
But now, two years later, where my heart previously ripped, the hole fills slowly with drops of triggering, magical ways you still live.
They told me you died but I see you in the spaces you left empty.
The now open chair at our kitchen table.
The camera missing from our faces on holiday mornings, you eager to document our lives.
The spot next to Mom when she reads at night.
The text message thread on my phone where no more messages buzz in.
They told me you died but I see you in places.
I see you at the counter stools of the local diner. In plates of breakfast hash browns with coarse grains of salt. Your voice echoes in my swirling coffee whispering the familiar truth that cream only rises to the top of a freshly brewed cup. I hold those swirls in my mug-warmed hands and I see you.
I see you at grief group as I sit on cold metal chairs. My new friend opens a box of Walker’s Shortbread and passes around sticks of your favorite buttery treat. I rest half a cookie on my saucer – breathe in a piece of you as I sip my peppermint tea.
I see you on the road when blue BMWs drive by. I always do a double take, wondering if perhaps your face will be behind the wheel of those cars.
I see you at Starbucks when fathers and daughters gather. Anytime I order a breakfast sandwich and I throw away the top of the English muffin – you used to eat that part.
They told me you died but I see you in passing, in mentions, in moments.
I see you when my cousins say they miss receiving your texts.
I see you as other voices order a cup of Pike’s Place brew.
I see you when microwaves beep continuously – you stand from your desk and retrieve your coffee gone cold once again.
I see you in little kids being silly – their dancing hips and low swinging arms with palms open in joy. They must have learned that from you.
I see you in the cluster of pens on my counter, the ones we took from your office when we cleaned it out your belongings. American Family branded freebies that clutter my junk drawer. My jumper cables and ice scraper too.
They told me you died but I see you in us.
I see you in my brother’s toes. His feet are shaped just like yours.
I see you when my mother brings out your photos – your secrets and stories still glimmer in her eyes.
I see you when my husband wears your clothes – the gingham purple button up hangs differently on his tall frame than it did on yours.
I see you in my eyebrows, my sense of humor, my unfortunate need to isolate when I get overwhelmed.
They told me you died but I’m learning you’ll never be gone.
Your body has gone and your voice no longer speaks. Your heart stopped too soon, stealing your warmth.
You live on in my seeing, in my feeling, in my noticing of the ways you still fill up my heart.
Drop by magical drop.