You left us almost 3 months ago. (2 months, 13 days, 3 hours and 42 minutes to be exact, but who’s counting.)
“You left us…” I hate this wording. Countless English professors and bosses trained me over the years to avoid the passive voice. But the passive voice seems so much more appropriate in this case. This was not something done by you, but something that happened to you.
You didn’t leave us. You were taken from us. Cruelly, suddenly and against your will. You had no agency — no choice in the matter.
Surely you never would have chosen to leave this world before seeing the perfect son we created. You never would have chosen to leave your daughter… not before she started kindergarten. Not before she learned to read and play sports and take acting classes and go to prom and attend college and start her career and have children of her own. Not before you got to see her grow up in your beautiful image, and brighten the lives of those around her the way you brightened the lives of those around you.
You didn’t leave us. The world was robbed of your life force. What’s left now is a crater. An enormous, smoking cavity of sadness and loss. I looked up craters online. They are caused by the explosion or impact of a meteorite or “other celestial body.” I like that wording. You were a celestial body, and you left an impact on me (and the world) that could never be undone or filled in or paved over.
Immediately after your death, I chose to walk around the crater. It was a longer, less-direct route, but it was necessary. I had diapers to change and crusts to remove from PB&J sandwiches and bills to pay, and other people’s grief to manage, like the woman at the insurance company who broke down crying when I told her our story. And I had a funeral to arrange. Walking through the crater — spending any amount of time in the crater — would have made those tasks impossible.
There is more time now. More time to walk through the massive hole and ponder what happened to you. There are still diapers to change and crusts to remove, band-aids to apply and tears to wipe away. But they are all part of a routine now. And that routine came shockingly easy… because of you.
I am truly in awe of how much you put in place for our family. Reading two books at bedtime, brushing teeth and answering something fun in our book of questions. There were also the “movie nights.” Singing in the car. FaceTiming the Grandparents. Dance class. Gymnastics class. The weekend breakfasts with our friend, Bryan.
I was able to pick up all these things so seamlessly because of the work you had already done. You didn’t just leave behind a crater — you also left behind structure. A structure and scaffolding built on love and creativity and fun. Scaffolding that will keep our family together and upright long after I lose count of how many minutes you have been gone.
For now, though, I count those minutes because there aren’t very many of them. It is still so fresh and real and raw. And I’m not going to lie to you, some of those minutes are brutal. And sometimes the minutes turn into hours and days.
On those days the tears come. I try to limit them because I don’t think you would want me to cry. You were never like that. You always wanted me to be happy, even when I forgot to take out the garbage or empty the dishwasher. (By the way, I do all that stuff now without anyone asking. Sometimes I don’t even curse in Italian while I do them!)
There is another reason I limit the tears, though. I am afraid. I am afraid that if I start to cry I will never be able to stop. I think I could probably fill the crater with my tears and then drown in them — and probably wipe out half of Burbank in the ensuing flood.
Surprisingly, there are other days when the tears do not come at all. They could not come even if I tried, for I am too numb. Numb from talking to doctors and hospitals and the paperwork and the phone calls to the banks and the city and all the other tedious minutiae a person deals with when a spouse dies.
On the morning you died, I remembered thinking, “I am not prepared for this.” There is no manual for how to react when a doctor hands you your newborn son after telling you that your wife just died. There is no book, no song and no episode of This is Us that can actually prepare you for having to tell your 4-year-old daughter that her Mommy wouldn’t be coming home again.
But you know what? I didn’t need to be prepared because you were still there with me. Even in the moment I learned I would never see you again, you were there. You gave me the strength to call my therapist on the way home from the hospital to get the appropriate language to talk to Darby. And you were there when I talked to her. You helped me help your poor parents deal with the grief of losing their only child on what was supposed to be such a joyous day. And you were right there with me in the long, shitty, debilitating days that followed (that I was surely present for, but thankfully no longer remember).
You are still here. In Bobby’s smile and Darby’s voice. You are still here in your handwriting on the white boards in our office, and the notes you left on the fridge. You were there in our linens and bed sheets. (Don’t get mad, but it took me a while to change them. Not because I was lazy, but because I liked that you were the first thing I smelled in the morning and the last thing I smelled before I went to bed.)
I did eventually change them, though. Just like I will eventually have to erase your handwriting from the whiteboard and donate your clothes and delete the shows from the DVR that we used to watch together. You will still be here, though, because you were always more than just your physical presence. You were your light and your spirit and your humor and your love.
And now I am convinced more than ever that you will be there when Darby and Bobby start kindergarten. When they learn to read and play sports and take acting classes and go to prom and attend college and start their careers and have children of their own.
I am going to sign off for now, but before I do, I want you to know something: We will be okay. We’ve got this — whatever “this” is. I mean, I still have no idea how to fix Darby’s hair in the morning, so she kind of looks like some dusty kid out of a Steinbeck novel or one of The Others on LOST. But otherwise, we’ve got this.
Remember how we used to joke that our nanny, Cricket, lived with us? Well… guess what — Cricket actually lives with us now. And we are so lucky to have her in our lives. She already treated Darby like a daughter, but you should see how wonderful she is with Bobby. Somehow, though, I think you can see.
Oh, there’s one other thing you should know: You were loved and you are still so loved. I have been incredibly moved by the outpouring of support for our family, but also the love everyone had — and continues to have — for you. You are a special person. And I miss you.
P.S. I gave up on Westworld and Legion. I know we watched them together but I have no idea what the hell is happening on either of those cockameme shows. And it’s not the same watching them without you calling me a “dumbass”, even though you secretly had no idea what was going on either. : )