A Thought for Fellow Grievers: A Picture Says a 1000 Words

A-picture-is-worth-a-thousand-words

They says a picture is worth a thousand words and as an obsessive photographer I have always agreed with that.  I have also always been a big fan of quotes in that I am constantly saving ones I see or writing them down from the books I read or posting them on my fridge or sharing them with my best friend, Lauren.  Since I lost Zach, my fiancé, I have either come across or been sent various pictures with quotes about grieving that have so strongly resonated with me that I now have an extensive collection of them saved in my phone or in my email.

I would like to share them here with you today because maybe you also have found yourself trapped in a similar journey with grief and you feel like me in that it gives you a small degree of comfort to know that other people are thinking and feeling the same way as you.  Maybe you can also look at a picture of someone who has experienced loss, recognize the raw emotion, and know exactly what they are feeling in that moment.

That’s the worst part about grief: to feel like you have lost your mind, that no one could ever feel the way you do, and that what you’re feeling isn’t normal.  Our grief stories might be different, our loss can have a completely different face, but grief is grief and we experience it together.  So maybe you have already seen some of these pictures or heard these quotes or maybe you won’t even get anything out of me sharing them, but I am doing this today because I need the same reminder that grief is shared by all….. even through the pure kindness of faceless online supporters.

These pictures depict, describe, define, and demonstrate grief whether it be through words or just a picture.  I hope you draw the same thing from them as I have.

From me to you,

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The Times When You Actually Have Too Much to Say

how grief works

 

There is no grief like the grief that does not speak ~~ Henry Wordsworth

 

Zach,

I feel like this is my life right now.  Clearly my life is no longer on a straight progressive line through life, but instead it has become a clusterf**k of a disastrous rollercoaster ride.  Spinning, swirling, confusing, overwhelming, excruciating.  I have said it so many times before, but between work, teaching, and my own university classes I barely have time to think.  Every single day, from 8 AM until 2-3 AM, I alternate between working in the office, attending class, teaching, studying, doing homework, making lesson plans, grading, etc. that I barely have time to even sleep.  Since January I have not felt like I can catch a break.  And I am so tired.

The worst part about it is that I have so much I want to say.  Things I need to say, to get off my chest, to get out of my mind.  I have so much I want to say to you, to write about, to process.  I just don’t have time.  I need to make more time because there is so much more I feel like I need to do.  My every intention behind starting this blog was to one day help somebody in some way with their own grief.  To show them that they are not alone.  So many people have shared their very personal experiences with grief with me and they tell me that my words have helped, but I know there is more I could probably do.  I have ideas, I have the words…. I just don’t have the time.

And for a writer?  Not having time to do what we love, to do what is our biggest outlet, to do what helps us process so much?  Having so much to say but no time to get it written down? Zach, having no time to write is excruciating for a writer.  All of these words are just piling up in my head and I want to sit down and dedicate a whole day to writing.  But I can’t.

I don’t know if you are actually watching over all of us or if you can see how we are struggling.  But more than ever I need you to show me that I am doing the right thing, that I am on the right path.  Because right now I feel so lost that none of it seems worthwhile and I don’t know why I’m still doing it.  Especially school.  School is hard, I can never get caught up.  I am just so tired.  There are not enough hours in the day.  I don’t know if you are watching, but I need something to show me that this total lack of time is worth it.

The Natural Progression of Life

grief progression

Zach,

With new responsiblities at work, the end of an intensely hard semester at school, and now with the holidays requiring a brief return to Canada to be with my family, I have had not a spare moment to sit down and write.  But seeing this picture stuck with me so profoundly, I couldn’t resist taking a moment to share it.

I came across this picture the other day and I cannot even begin to describe how much it stuck with me.  The simplistic beauty of the progression through life: childhood innocence to tragic loneliness.  I have never claimed to be special or different or even the only one to ever experience loss.  But this picture shows the natural progression through life and that is how it should be.  That is what I was robbed of.  This is what has been taken from me.

I am angry because we never got the chance to grow old together.  This is what our life should have looked like.  I have been told it is OK to feel this way but it still feels wrong to feel this resentful and angry.  Zach, you and I should have had the opportunity to become withered, wrinkled, old, and needing a cane together.  We should have been able to experience a full life together, but now all I can do is watch as life passes me by.  A numb observer of my own life.

Right now one of my best friends is going through something I would never wish upon her and I can only try to send her as much love as possible because I know I can’t take the hurt away.  It hurts my heart because although our situations are different, I completely understand the anger she feels looking in on other people’s lives, happiness, and joy.  Its hard.  It is so damn hard.  The bitterness you unwillingly feel knowing you don’t have the same thing everyone else does is an unmerciful master which threatens to consume you.

So what is the answer?  What do you do when you resent what others have?  Do you hide away, distance yourself from friends because you don’t have what they do, avoid Facebook so you don’t become hostile seeing pictures of their happy lives?  I think that answer lies within each of us because each of us will feel better doing different things, but I know what has worked for me even if it is only a slight help.

I know I am not the only one to feel this way so I wanted to take a moment today to remind everyone of the same thing I am trying to teach myself.  It is OK to feel resentful that your life doesn’t look like everyone elses.  It is even OK if you find yourself withdrawing like I have because it lessens the anger you feel even if only remotely.  It is OK to be angry that you will never have everything you always dreamt of.  I know its OK.  I remind myself of that.  But how to fix it?  Your guess is as good as mine.

The 365 Things I Miss About You

Zach,

When I started this list yesterday I never dreamt I could list off 365 things with such ease.  Realistically I could have kept going, could have listed way more.  There is so much I miss about you and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

  1. I miss your crazy curly hair and the contests we would have of whose hair would be bigger and more tangled in the mornings.
  2. I miss seeing you wear the grubby shirts and shorts you would wear to cut the grass in.
  3. I miss the sound of your voice and your smooth Southern accent.
  4. I miss the delicious dinners you would cook.
  5. I miss watching you read and how intently focused you would be.
  6. I miss the way you called me PBEB, Machita, or your dime.
  7. I miss watching football together.
  8. I even miss our nightly Skype chats that went on for hours when we were apart for 8 months.
  9. I miss traveling around Costa Rica together.
  10. I miss going to the beach, people watching, and making fun of people.
  11. I miss playing XBOX together.
  12. I miss going to the movies and getting drunk in the theatre.
  13. I miss our roadtrips.
  14. I miss sleeping next to you.
  15. I miss sharing every little piece of my day with you.
  16. I miss hearing about your students.
  17. I miss learning Spanish together.
  18. I miss our random drunken games nights and how I always suspected you cheated at Monopoly.
  19. I miss forcing you to take pictures even though you hated them.
  20. I miss how excited you would get about my good grades.
  21. I miss planning our next vacation.
  22. I miss grocery shopping together.
  23. I miss watching you grill and concoct your own delicious marinades.
  24. I miss watching you write.
  25. I miss our long conversations where we could lose ourselves for hours talking about nothing or talking about the complexities of life.
  26. I miss riding dirt roads.
  27. I miss weekends together out at your grandparents property.
  28. I miss your touch.
  29. I miss bouncing ideas off of you for what I wanted to write.
  30. I miss planning our future together.
  31. I miss your hugs.
  32. I miss the way you would sleep curled up on one side with that little pillow tucked between your knees because you hated when your knees touched.
  33. I miss making coffee for us in the morning.
  34. I miss cuddling in the hammock.
  35. I miss painting, renovating, and decorating our house.
  36. I miss watching you work with a hammer and nails.
  37. I miss the way Kiana and Zachary worshipped the ground you walked on.
  38. I miss the way you could explain anything to me so I would understand.
  39. I miss the mornings we would stay in bed talking or watching cartoons because it was just too comfortable to get up.
  40. I miss that feeling of seeing you walk in the front door after a long day at work.
  41. I miss your silly text messages.
  42. I miss the way you could always get me to smile no matter what.
  43. I miss how supportive you were about every single aspect of my life.
  44. I miss how organized you were.
  45. I miss how you always thought 10 steps ahead of everyone else.
  46. I miss how we learned to survive on almost nothing but it didn’t matter because we were together.
  47. I miss buying our groceries at the Dollar Store and how proud we were of the great meals we still managed to pull together.
  48. I miss the nights where we would make Jello Shots for the fun of it.
  49. I miss hosting dinners for our friends and having get together’s.
  50. I miss going for walks.
  51. I miss the feeling of your fingers lacing through mine.
  52. I miss that moment when you knew a headache was coming on without me even telling you.
  53. I miss the way you would take care of me when I was sick.
  54. I miss the times you would know that my crazy cravings for salt meant I wanted something semi-healthy like crackers or Chex Mix and the times I wanted Doritos or Dill Pickle chips.
  55. I miss going fishing.
  56. I miss buying a case of beer after work on Friday’s, renting a bunch of movies, and locking ourselves in for the night.
  57. I miss being a home-body with you.
  58. I miss falling asleep next to you.
  59. I miss dreaming about our future.
  60. I miss how you always wanted to take care of me financially and hated when I contributed my half because you wanted me to not worry.
  61. I miss you helping me register for classes.
  62. I miss the way you would keep me calm when I would get overly stressed about school.
  63. I miss how you used to help me study.
  64. I miss your massages.
  65. I miss taking bubbles baths together ….. and I know you would be embarrassed for me to have just written that.
  66. I miss how proud you were of my writing and how you always encouraged me to do more.
  67. I miss drinking wine on the balcony of our first apartment.
  68. I miss all the hours spent house-hunting.
  69. I miss trying new recipes together.
  70. I miss you calling to say good morning every single day when we were long distance for those 8 months.
  71. I miss hearing your co-workers rave about how amazing you were and how proud I was to call you mine.
  72. I miss spending time with your family all together.
  73. I miss spending time with my family all together.
  74. I miss going bowling and drinking pitchers of beer.
  75. I miss watching the sunset over the pond at your grandparents.
  76. I miss watching how aggravated you would get when your Nana Jones told the same story for the millionth time.
  77. I miss how you kept me on track with my schoolwork and yet never let me overwork myself.
  78. I miss how you would let me vent my anger and frustration over my first job here.
  79. I miss how you would help me coordinate work events.
  80. I miss that “look” we would give each other and knowing we were thinking the exact same thing.
  81. I miss talking in Spanish if we needed to say something without other people overhearing us.
  82. I miss going surfing.
  83. I miss the way you would talk about our wedding, where it would, how it would be, and how it was your idea that we have two so we could have one in each country.
  84. I miss the way you would brag about how I knew so much about football.
  85. I miss doing your Fantasy Football draft with you.
  86. I miss seeing the passion you felt when you would go off on a tangent about history, philosophy, politics or anything for that matter.
  87. I miss seeing how protective you were of your little sister.
  88. I miss seeing how proud you were of your little brother.
  89. I miss seeing the amazing relationship you and your father developed as you grew older.
  90. I miss our “homeless” experience in Costa Rica.
  91. I even miss the disgusting bedbug incident in that hostel in Costa Rica.
  92. I miss missing you while you would be gone all day hunting or fishing.
  93. I miss listening to the language only you and Rob could understand.
  94. I miss how patient you were with anyone and everyone, even me with math which I know drove you crazy.
  95. I miss your kind caring nature.
  96. I miss your passion for helping all of your students.
  97. I miss listening to your plans, both far-fetched and realistic, to make a change in the struggling communities your students lived in.
  98. I miss having to clean the house together.
  99. I miss the OCD manner in which you wanted your clothes folded when I did laundry.
  100. I miss waking up beside you.
  101. I miss the odd way you would sometimes sleep with one leg bent so one knee was sticking up in the air.
  102. I miss the times I could convince you to do a yoga workout with me.
  103. I miss going rock climbing.
  104. I miss walking around downtown Valdosta on First Friday’s and stopping in all the art galleries.
  105. I miss going to listen to live music.
  106. I miss sweating to death washing and detailing your uncle’s three cars in the sweltering heat.
  107. I miss teaching in classrooms beside each other in Costa Rica and occasionally combining our groups for an activity.
  108. I miss that feeling I would get each and every time you would kiss me.
  109. I miss the hour long conversations you would have with your parents almost every day.
  110. I miss watching you work on my car and try to fix that gas leak.
  111. I miss being your navigator while we would take off on a long trip.
  112. I miss going to baseball and football games.
  113. I miss you teaching me how to shoot.
  114. I miss how sympathetic you were to hurting families.
  115. I miss the surprise visits to my office during the day if you had to come into Valdosta for a meeting.
  116. I miss sneaking away from the group to have a moment to ourselves.
  117. I miss camping out at your grandparents property with ten million stars blanketing the sky.
  118. I miss stopping to split a milkshake on the two hour drive to your parents.
  119. I miss turning on Netflix and spending the day in bed.
  120. I miss you coming home with poison ivy almost every time you worked out at the property.
  121. I miss how much you hated spiders.
  122. I miss the pictures you would send me of giant snakes you came across.
  123. I miss how you always knew the right thing to say.
  124. I miss how you patiently hung all my little white shelves on the wall even though they were aggravating and impossible to do.
  125. I miss the hours we would spend laying at the pool at our first apartment.
  126. I miss how you always wanted to be the gentleman and drive everywhere we went.
  127. I miss listening to the lengthy conversations you and my grandpa would have about the war.
  128. I miss how much you learned about my own grandparents and told me things I had never known.
  129. I miss how you would help me keep my cool when my mom would drive me crazy.
  130. I miss the way you would surprise me coming home for a mid-week visit when I first moved here and you were still in Eastman Monday-Friday.
  131. I miss ordering a ton of Chinese takeout, covering the coffee table with it, and pigging out all night.
  132. I miss making margaritas and floating in the pool at your parents.
  133. I miss random day trips to Jacksonville at 6am so we could spend the day at the beach and drive home once the sun went down.
  134. I miss eating crab legs and how you used to have to help me crack them open because I was such a novice.
  135. I miss going for ½ oysters and Happy Hour for an early supper on Friday nights at the place by the highway.
  136. I miss those quiet moments with both of us reading a book and being perfectly content with the silence.
  137. I miss the sound of your breathing as you would fall asleep.
  138. I miss when you would go take your contacts out shortly before bed and how you would joke that you were “slipping into something more comfortable”.
  139. I miss eating our weights worth of chicken wings and having a couple pints while watching the football game at Buffalo Wild Wings.
  140. I miss how you would buy me school supplies at the start of every semester.
  141. I miss how you would reward me for every A I would get in school.
  142. I miss mapping out our travels, strategizing how to maximize our vacation time, and researching hotels/destinations.
  143. I miss the way you said you loved me.
  144. I even miss when you would have tobacco chew shoved in your cheek.
  145. I miss the way you would purposefully not cut your fingernails because you knew you’d want to bite them the next time you were stressed.
  146. I miss the way you loved your longer hair and how you used to convince me a ponytail once in a while was a good thing.
  147. I miss the way you taught me to shoot a gun.
  148. I miss the way you taught me to drive stick shift.
  149. I miss the occasional time you would surprise me with flowers even though we both thought gifts of flowers were silly because they just die.
  150. I miss the way your eyes would light up when you picked me up from the airport.
  151. I miss the silly scavenger hunts we would plan for each other as a surprise of what we would be doing that day.
  152. I miss the feisty way you would watch baseball and how furious you would get if the Braves didn’t play good.
  153. I miss the way you were Florida State’s biggest fan.
  154. I miss the way you drilled me on FSU statistics/trivia so you could show me off to your friends.
  155. I miss the pride you felt when I would blast someone for insulting me that I only like the Patriots because of a good-looking quarterback.
  156. I miss the way you made it OK for me to miss my dad.
  157. I miss taking the most handsome man in a well-dressed suit to a wedding as my date.
  158. I miss how aggravated you would get as drivers in Costa Rica would honk and scream “MACHITA” at me as we walked down the road because they were so mesmerized by blonde hair.
  159. I miss how protective you were of me and how you always made me feel so safe.
  160. I miss listening to your boasting talk about the property and all your hopes and dreams for it.
  161. I miss seeing how devastated you were when your idol, the head coach of FSU, was forced to retire.
  162. I miss seeing you patiently and diligently help my niece with her math homework.
  163. I miss seeing you play in the snow like a true Southern boy not used to our Canadian winters.
  164. I miss seeing you cave in and finally wear a scarf because you were so cold.
  165. I miss taking care of you when you were sick.
  166. I miss our after-dinner splitting a cigarette.
  167. I miss taking mid-afternoon naps together on the weekend just because we could.
  168. I miss the random drinking games we would play.
  169. I miss traveling to Savannah and Statesboro to visit your college friends.
  170. I miss hearing you introduce me to people as your girl.
  171. I miss watching you play that biking video game with my niece and nephew because they had made a deal with you that you couldn’t marry me until you reached level 36.
  172. I miss the way that you would pull and tug at your bottom lip as a nervous habit.
  173. I miss how self-conscious you were about your smile.
  174. I miss going to the gym and working out together.
  175. I miss playing mini-golf together.
  176. I miss building a fence, fixing a pipe, or building a railing together out at your grandparents.
  177. I miss how addicted I got you to Criminal Minds, my favorite show.
  178. I miss writing you little love notes that I would sneak into your lunch.
  179. I miss making your lunch every morning.
  180. I miss how much you despised waking up in the morning.
  181. I miss how many times you would hit snooze before you would finally get up.
  182. I miss you always coming home with little trinkets or discoveries in your pockets that you had come across during the day.
  183. I miss watching you skimboard at the beach.
  184. I miss you calling me in the middle of the day to quickly ask for Spanish help if you were on a home-visit and couldn’t properly explain yourself.
  185. I miss you coming home from work late because you were taking groceries or firewood out to a family in need.
  186. I miss how much you genuinely cared about everyone’s well-being.
  187. I miss how you would literally give your shirt off your back to someone in need and how that was not a cliché when it came to you.
  188. I miss finding little post-it-notes stuck to the fridge telling me you loved me.
  189. I miss getting picture text messages throughout the day of crafts or art work you were doing with students.
  190. I miss watching old family videos together and imagining what our children would be like.
  191. I miss how you used to aggravate your brother and sister just because you could.
  192. I miss how you knew exactly how to push everyone’s buttons.
  193. I miss how you perfectly fit in with our family.
  194. I miss feeling like the future was full of endless opportunities for us because we were doing it together.
  195. I miss how you knew exactly what to say to motivate me when I was feeling down.
  196. I miss talking about where we were going to go overseas next after I graduated.
  197. I miss researching information for your master’s program.
  198. I miss talking about how you would be Dr. Jones one day.
  199. I miss feeling you play with my hair.
  200. I miss how much you loved the rare time I straightened my hair because you could run your fingers unlike when it was curly.
  201. I miss listening to you yell at the baseball or football players on the TV like they could hear you.
  202. I miss how you knew every stat for every player in every sport even though you rarely watched ones like basketball or golf; somehow you still always knew.
  203. I miss waking up and switching on Sports Center every morning.
  204. I miss falling asleep to Family Guy.
  205. I miss how much you loved watching the old Robin Hood movie and how you could watch it over and over and over.
  206. I miss your child-like glee when you would get excited about something.
  207. I miss wandering book stores with you and how I always knew I could find you in the History section if we got separated.
  208. I miss seeing your reaction to how quickly beer could freeze if a bottle got dropped on the front stoop of a friend’s house in the middle of July.
  209. I miss my aggravation over your ancient cell phone held together by duct tape while we were long distance for eight months until I finally convinced you to get a new one.
  210. I miss seeing you driving the big tractor.
  211. I miss watching you suit up in all of your hunting girl at 4am before you went off into the woods.
  212. I miss how you would always kiss me good morning and kiss me good night.
  213. I miss how we were able to talk about anything and never went to bed angry.
  214. I miss how we would always end up wanting the same item off a menu.
  215. I miss doing laundry and always having to check your pockets for garbage, Kleenex, or treasures.
  216. I miss how obsessed you were with clothes not being wrinkled and how every Sunday night you would painstakingly iron all of your dress shirts for the next week.
  217. I miss how “modest” you were and how you didn’t mind every saying that you knew you looked good.
  218. I miss your knack for shopping and how you would pick out things for me that I would never have chosen in a million years but loving them once I tried them on.
  219. I miss how you knew me better than I knew myself.
  220. I miss how you inspired me to go back to school.
  221. I miss the frequent phone calls I would get early morning every time you got stuck at the train on the way to work.
  222. I miss being worried about you every time you went on a home visit and how you would call me when you arrived there and when you left so I would know you were safe.
  223. I miss watching you interact with kids and how you could get down on their level.
  224. I miss watching you wow anyone in a position of authority and present yourself completely different than the curly-haired young guy.
  225. I miss how intelligent you were.
  226. I miss tracing the tattoo on your back.
  227. I miss how much you loved when I wore stilettos and how you loved buying me high heels.
  228. I miss occasionally getting super dressed up and going on a date night.
  229. I miss how everyday was so special and how we didn’t need Valentine’s Day or an anniversary to acknowledge our love for each other.
  230. I miss how you had the ability to remember every little detail about everything.
  231. I miss watching you with my friends and how they instantly connected with you.
  232. I miss watching you teach and how the students would respond to you.
  233. I miss sitting by a fire together.
  234. I miss how you believed you could fix anything.
  235. I miss the contentment of our life together.
  236. I miss how aggravated you would get when I would go all day without eating.
  237. I miss the nights where we would come home and fix a cocktail before doing anything else then joking that we were like a family in the 50’s.
  238. I miss how excited you would get for Christmas, your favorite holiday.
  239. I miss shopping for gifts for you because you were so hard to buy for but it was always worth it in the end.
  240. I miss watching you with your oldest guy friends and knowing I was witness to true friendship.
  241. I miss how you would always think of something that had to be done just as we were about to walk out the door which would inevitably make us late.
  242. I miss how you would patiently listen to all of my updates about my girlfriends back in Canada even if you had no idea the context of the story.
  243. I miss the tricks you taught me to help me stand out in a crowd at school which would lead to higher grades.
  244. I miss how we would talk about the future and what we would be doing.
  245. I miss talking about renovating the old house out on the property and how that would be our “home base” when we were not off traveling.
  246. I miss talking about how you would be the stay-at-home dad because I love working and you could take it or leave it.
  247. I miss our debate of what dog we would get first since there were so many we wanted.
  248. I miss the passion we still felt even after almost three years together and how we would “brag” to each other after leaving various friends that we were glad we still had that connection and that it hadn’t died off after the first year together.
  249. I even miss the way you would tickle me even though I despise being tickled.
  250. I miss the way you hated feet.
  251. I miss the way Lusie, the family Basset Hound, would howl in joy when you came home.
  252. I miss how you kept me from picking at my fingers, my bad habit.
  253. I miss how stubbornly you tried to do everything by yourself because you didn’t believe in paying for repairs if you could do it yourself.
  254. I miss the hours spent replacing a hot water heater at your grandma’s and watching you work.
  255. I miss how you would leave every light in the house on and I would follow your tracks throughout the house and turn them off.
  256. I miss updating your iPod for you with new music.
  257. I miss watching you give my car an oil change.
  258. I miss the way you would kindly roll your eyes every time I randomly hurt myself.
  259. I miss how I never felt afraid when you were near me.
  260. I miss your presence in the house.
  261. I miss cooking dinner for you and how you always raved about it even though I felt it hadn’t turned out right.
  262. I miss your nightly glass of chocolate milk.
  263. I miss your white wifebeaters full of holes that you would never let me throw out.
  264. I miss how you would never pass up an opportunity to buy a new hat.
  265. I miss how you strived every day to be a better man than you were the day before.
  266. I miss how you never let anything stand in your way of what you wanted.
  267. I miss how you made me feel like a treasured possession and the most beautiful girl in the world.
  268. I miss making roadtrip playlists and rocking out while we drove.
  269. I miss dancing like goofs or dancing to salsa music while we were in Costa Rica.
  270. I miss how we didn’t care what people thought of us as long as we were together.
  271. I miss promising each other how forever wouldn’t be long enough.
  272. I miss how excited you were when you gave me my gorgeous diamond earrings.
  273. I miss you mocking the Canadian way I said “bagel” or “pasta”.
  274. I miss the way you didn’t notice women throwing themselves at you because you thought they were just being polite.
  275. I miss how much you loved having breakfast for dinner.
  276. I miss how you picked up the habit of saying “Eh?”
  277. I miss you taking care of the bills and just telling me my portion so I wouldn’t stress about money.
  278. I miss you knowing how uncomfortable and shy I was meeting new people and how you always ensured I was OK.
  279. I miss the high expectations you had for yourself which made you frustrated because you knew you weren’t where you wanted to be career wise at this point in your life.
  280. I miss how much you hated when I doubted my ability to do well in school.
  281. I miss how I never had to question that I was your one and only.
  282. I miss how making sure I was happy, healthy, and provided for was your main priority.
  283. I miss how much you loved my independence but still wanted to be the one to provide for me.
  284. I miss how you promised my family they didn’t need to worry and that you would take care of me before I left Canada and moved here.
  285. I miss how you lazily joked that I mixed better cocktails since I was the bartender, but really it was so you didn’t have to get up.
  286. I miss how you made it your personal mission to get me to accept a compliment.
  287. I miss playing in the waves for hours.
  288. I miss the way you would comfort me when I was hurting or sad.
  289. I miss how you motivated me to be a better person.
  290. I miss how you were like a little boy scout and were “always prepared” with a little of everything in your backpack.
  291. I miss how at the bar you always somehow knew if I was in a beer, wine, or vodka mood.
  292. I miss how you fit into any group of people with comfort and ease.
  293. I miss the way I could always depend on you to help me every step of the way.
  294. I miss how you let your walls down and began to trust once we were together after years of being guarded and afraid.
  295. I miss you telling me that words are power, which was going to be the title of a book you wanted to write, which I then adapted that idea into this blog.
  296. I miss how you were the perfect negotiator and mediator.
  297. I miss how nothing could phase you and you always kept your cool.
  298. I miss us being the perfect traveling companions and how nothing ever threw us off track.
  299. I miss you convincing me that at least one day out of the week I deserved a night of not even touching a textbook or doing any homework.
  300. I miss you figuring out crucial plot points of TV shows or movies so quickly because you were just a genius like that.
  301. I miss the way you ate sunflower seeds and spit out the seeds.
  302. I miss you being a super-wimp when you were sick and taking care of you.
  303. I miss you making me feel like everything is going to be OK.
  304. I miss the way you called me ma’am even though it made me feel old.
  305. I miss the way you bragged about me being two years older and that I had been your boss for a brief time in Costa Rica.
  306. I miss how comfortably our lives blended together.
  307. I miss how easy it was to live together almost from the day we met.
  308. I miss how you never let me feel defeated.
  309. I miss how you liked me best after just waking up and with no makeup on.
  310. I miss how angry you would get if someone hurt my feelings.
  311. I miss how much we loved when we lazed around the house with nowhere to be and no one to interrupt us.
  312. I miss us being the perfect cleaning team because I hated vacuuming and dusting and you hated mopping, kitchens, and bathrooms.
  313. I miss how much you loved when I would get comfy by wearing one of your shirts.
  314. I miss how much you hated when I talked bad about myself.
  315. I miss hearing you call all types of pop/soda a “coke” and how long it took me to figure out that when in the South asking for a Coke might mean you want a Dr. Pepper.
  316. I miss watching you and Jay dig holes in their backyard for posts for their new deck and how you promised it would take 45 minutes but actually took 7.5 hours.
  317. I miss driving past a police car and you always saying “F**K a cop!”
  318. I miss surprising you with the season of Band of Brothers on DVD because I knew you desperately wanted it then proceeding to watch every single episode.
  319. I miss when you’d get on me for using a turn signal on a dirt road because apparently that’s just not done.
  320. I miss you hating when I would push myself to exhaustion.
  321. I miss watching you rescue a turtle from the middle of the road so he wouldn’t get run over.
  322. I miss driving around the property at your grandparents looking for deer, turkeys, coyotes, snakes, etc.
  323. I miss you convincing me that money didn’t matter so I should quit working and only focus on school.
  324. I miss coming home to a house full of love.
  325. I miss never having to be afraid of the things that go bump in the night.
  326. I miss having someone to share every idea, dream, and thought with.
  327. I miss being able to ask a million questions about whatever historical movie or show we might be watching and you being able to give me the background on it.
  328. I miss you “ruining” movies for me by explaining how many shots a gun would actually be able to fire and pointing out how unrealistic/fake it was.
  329. I miss photographing our life together.
  330. I miss making Skype phone calls to my family and having web cam conversations so they could see both of us.
  331. I miss watching you play in the snow with Kiana and Zachary.
  332. I miss the comfort you brought to all of my family and friends who no longer feared my travels or living abroad once I met you.
  333. I miss the friendship you brought to so many of my family and friends, especially with my brother-in-law who truly valued your relationship.
  334. I miss feeling your arms wrap around me when you would roll over in your sleep.
  335. I miss the way my heart would skip a beat every time you told me you loved me.
  336. I miss how lucky I felt for having you in my life.
  337. I miss feeling like it would never get better than this.
  338. I miss feeling like my future was completely intertwined with yours.
  339. I miss our spontaneity.
  340. I miss the ridiculous things we figured out to do as a way to make those eight months of long distance fly by.
  341. I miss our 110% honesty clause and our vow to tell each other everything.
  342. I miss the fact that you were my best friend and my soul mate.
  343. I miss the way you would protectively walk on the sidewalk closest to the street in case a crazy Costa Rican driver hopped a curb.
  344. I miss the sound of your heart beat as I would lay with my head on your chest.
  345. I miss laying together in your Lazy-Boy chair which was clearly not meant for two.
  346. I miss the pride I felt when people would rave about the quality of your work.
  347. I miss washing bright red hair dye out of your hair after you had dressed up like a clown for a school assembly because you knew the kids would be thrilled.
  348. I miss hearing you curse out U-Haul after the second time they screwed us over and how you went straight to them top.
  349. I miss your goofy smile and the way you would joke around.
  350. I miss how you would call me “old lady” if my bad hip was bothering me.
  351. I miss how when I had a migraine you would tuck me into bed then make sure I had gingerale, medication, and an ice pack.
  352. I miss the sound of your car door shutting when you would come home followed by the sound of your key in the lock.
  353. I miss making a giant casserole dish full of homemade chicken nachos then sitting on the floor in front of the TV to inhale them while raving they were better than any restaurant.
  354. I miss the boastful way you would talk about your Nana’s cooking.
  355. I miss watching you shuffle around the house in your ratty bedroom shoes that were so old they were held together by duct tape.
  356. I miss the methodical way you were able to budget everything out and how you ensured your loans/credit cards were fully paid off before we started paying mine off.
  357. I miss sitting by the river at your grandparents property and getting lost in conversation for hours while listening to the peaceful sound of rushing water.
  358. I miss you bringing home a cooler full of freshly caught fish then frying them up for us.
  359. I miss the way you talked like you had rocks in your mouth and how many times I had to say “Pardon?” during every phone call while we were long distance.
  360. I miss those last moments in Costa Rica when we were at the airport and knowing we were both committed to this but terrified that everything would change once we both got home.
  361. I miss that moment we knew everything was coming together when I got accepted into university and everything worked out for my move.
  362. I miss when you would put on camouflage shorts and a red plaid shirt because you didn’t care how horribly you were mismatched while working out at the property.
  363. I miss the way you would look deep into my eyes and see the real me.
  364. I miss the way you loved me.
  365. I miss you.

The First Year

Zach,

It is 4 a.m.  It is 4 a.m on October 9th, 2012.  I cannot believe it.  One year.

One year ago right this moment my life changed forever.  One year ago right this minute my phone rang and I got the worst news of my whole damn life.  One year ago exactly now you were taken from us way too soon.  One year ago the world lost one of the best men it would ever know.  We lost a son, a brother, a soul mate, a partner, a best friend, a teacher, a coach; so many people lost something that day and so many of us are hurting.  One year ago you left us and nothing has been the same since.

The concept of time has been utterly lost to me.  I should have a firmer grasp on it considering I have been writing about each passing month and essentially keeping track of the time in some way, but here we are.  A year?  My God.  I don’t know how any of us made it through it.  How did we get here?  It feels like it has been a simple blink of an eye and yet the calendar doesn’t lie.  It’s here. 365 days have somehow flashed by all of us and we are still blindly wandering and attempting to grasp at anything to keep us afloat.  One year later and we still can’t make sense of what life without you means.

They say when grieving to not make any big decisions in the first year.  They say that the “firsts” are always the most difficult.  Honestly?  I think that is a load of BS we all tell each other in an unintentional/subconscious attempt to put a time limit on grieving.  I know it is just one of those things said when no one really knows what to say, but what do people envision?  Crossing the finish line with a black-and-white checkered flag with people yelling “You made it!” and clapping as we cross over into a no grief zone?  Yes, the first year has passed but does that mean I am supposed to wake up tomorrow a lighter person, a less tormented person, a person returned to a happy reality?  It just isn’t possible.  Yesterday, today, tomorrow, and the days after that will still be severely lacking something.  You.  Without you nothing is better and there is still emptiness, sorrow, and pain.

I honestly don’t really know where to begin.  Zach, not a single day has gone by that my every thought isn’t with you.  Not one day has gone by that I have not wanted to pick up the phone and call you, heard a car door thinking it was you, or ached for you with every fiber of my being.  Not one millisecond of one single day has gone by where I haven’t missed you right down into the core of me.  The pain I feel lives with me like an unwelcome companion and it has not lessened in any way.

I still think of it as “us”.  Me and you.  Us.  Our love still feels as strong and ever-present.  My love for you has not diminished to the slightest degree and I still think of myself as yours.  I still say “we” and “our” without noticing that I do it until I see people cringe.  That might be crazy and a ridiculous thing to do, Zach but to me it is still “us”.  I don’t know any other way to be.  From the moment we met we were instantly “us” and I don’t know who I am without you.  I guess I’m just being “us” alone.

Zach, I’m at a loss.  I am lost and I don’t know what to do to make it better.  I don’t know what to say that could possibly honor your memory in any way right now.  I wrote about your headstone back in January when we went to have it designed but I am sharing the picture today for the first time as an attempt to commemorate the amazing life that you lived even if it was tragically short.

So I will close with this poem that I came across and while you were not a father, I don’t want the memories to stop, and I don’t want to say goodbye, I still love the beauty behind these words of wishing a loved one closer and the torture one feels when you can’t bring them back.  The torture I live with everyday.

I love you, Zachri Cecil Jones; yesterday, today, and forever.

I miss you.

“You were once my one companion,
You were all that mattered.
You were once a friend and father,
Then my world was shattered.

Wishing you were somehow here again,
Wishing you were somehow near.
Sometimes it seemed if I just dreamed,
Somehow you would be here.
Wishing I could hear your voice again,
Knowing that I never would
Dreaming of you won’t help me to do
All that you dreamed I could

Passing bells and sculpted angels
Cold and monumental
Seem for you the wrong companions
You were warm and gentle

Too many years fighting back tears
Why cant the past just die
Wishing you were somehow here again
Knowing we must say goodbye
Try to forgive
Teach me to live
Give me the strength to try
No more memories
No more silent tears
No more gazing across the wasted years

Help me say goodbye
Help me say goodbye”
~~ Charles Hart, The Phantom of the Opera

The Endless Night

 
 
“Have you ever wished for an endless night? Lassoed the moon and the stars and pulled that rope tight.  Have you ever held your breath and asked yourself will it ever get better than tonight?” ~~ Pink, Glitter in the Air
Zach,
 
Most days I feel like I am trapped in an endless night.  Whether I am awake or asleep, at work or at home, with people or alone the whole world seems dark.  I feel trapped in this nightmare, this never-ending horrible dream that I wish I could just wake up from.  Sometimes I feel like any second now my eyes are going to burst open, I will wake up gasping, sit straight up in bed drenched in sweat, shaking in fear, and waking you up in the process so that you could calm me down and tell me it was only a dream.  This reality I am living feels like no reality at all so why can’t it all just be a dream?  This endless night continues day after day, the nightmare goes on and on.  I feel like I should have by now, but I just can’t accept that this is my reality.  Will it ever feel real?  Will it ever not feel like a nightmare?  Will it ever get better than tonight?
 
You made the world a better place not just for me but for everyone who came into your life.  Anyone who met you made an instant connection with you whether it be my best friend’s new boyfriend, my family, my co-workers, or your students.  You brought so much to this world and now that you have been taken away the world is so much darker.  You brought so much good into the world and changed so many people’s lives that it is a wonder that any of us can continue on.  Your boss, the principal at the school you worked at, sent your parents and I a letter last week and she said they still have not been able to hire anyone to replace you because you continue to be irreplaceable.  That is such an honor and it is proof of the amazing person you were.  You were irreplaceable.  You are irreplaceable.  She told us how they still have days where they wish you were there to handle certain situations and how all the students still desperately miss their Mr. Zach.  You continue to be a vital part of that school.  But how could you not be?  The changes you implemented in that school and for that desperately hurting community were a godsend.  No one expected this curly-headed young guy to have such a powerful force about him, but you showed them your true self and what you did for that community will never be forgotten.  You brought a light into their dark world.
 
Without you, I am lost.  I feel lost in a pitch-black world with no light at the end of the tunnel.  Some days I can hide it better than others, but most days I feel like my vacant eyes are a blatant giveaway that there is only emptiness inside.  It is an endless night to live in a world without you.  It is an unpenetrable darkness that cannot be brightened with momentary distractions.  In the endless night nothing looks the same, sounds the same, tastes the same, or feels the same.  Every sense drastically altered.  All that remains is the anxiety, the sadness, the fear, and the loneliness.
 
All I feel is the overwhelming darkness of despair that it will never get better than this.
 
 

The Hottest Moving Day That Ever Was

 

“I hear there are people who actually enjoy moving. Sounds like a disease to me – they must be unstable. Though it does have it’s poetry, I’ll allow that. When an old dwelling starts looking desolate, a mixture of regret and anxiety comes over us and we feel like we are leaving a safe harbor for the rolling sea. As for the new place, it looks on us with alien eyes, it has nothing to say to us, it is cold.” ~~ Jan Neruda in Prague Tales

Zach,

One year ago today we moved into our house.  We were so proud.  So happy.  We both loved our year spent in the apartment at Spring Chase when I first moved to Georgia but there was nothing compared to the joy of moving into our house.  We spent months searching.  Months and months and months; I can say “months” a few more times but I think you get it.  We knew what we were looking for, what we wanted, our vision, and we just couldn’t find it.  But we didn’t give up.  We went to see the worst possible houses that could ever exist.  We went through the most vile of abodes that one could stomach.  We toured houses far out-of-town that would have jacked up our gas/car bills every month.  We went through it all.  And then we found the place we wanted to call home. 

Zach, it was finally worth the wait.  Through the months we spent searching and the number of horrible houses we went into all we wanted was a place we had a vision of.  One we would walk into and see “our home”.  One that we were willing to undertake the necessary repairs just to make it ours.  I had begun to give up hope but then something great happened.  We discovered this place.  Countless hours online researching, numerous conversations with unhelpful landlords, an unfathomable amount of time spent in the car driving around town seeking out any signs advertising houses we might be interested in.  Our actions may have appeared that we were desperate to get out of the apartment, but that wasn’t the case.  We loved the apartment.  I still love that apartment.  But we were ready for a house, a yard, a driveway…. our own space.

As soon as we saw this place, we knew.  It didn’t matter that it had been shut up for six months and needed a lot of work.  The damages, the mold, the stains could have defeated anyone else before even starting the renovation process.  But we saw the future.  We saw the goal.  We saw something in it that we didn’t see in anything other house we went through.  We saw the home that was lurking behind the gruesome shadows of this broken-down house.  We were willing to work for it.  We wanted it.

Zach, you know exactly why I say it was the hottest day that ever was.  It was excruciating.  We repetitively cursed the stupidity of moving in the month of May in south Georgia.  The heat was overwhelming, sickening, disgusting, brutal.  But we somehow managed to quickly pack up the apartment and get ready for May 21st, 2011; moving day.

I’m not going to begin to describe the BS drama with U-Haul here because this was the second time we had experienced such a brutal conflict with this company, but I don’t want to go on a rampage or describe your utter frustration when I am trying to write about the joy of our moving day.  It wouldn’t fit together.  Maybe another day.  Zach, that move was such a hassle, a battle.  But once we finally had everything unloaded and thrown inside the house at the end of an excruciating day, we were so relieved to be home.  Our home.  It didn’t matter how many obstacles had stood in our way, how many roadblocks we had encountered, how much there was to unpack or organize.  It didn’t matter that all we could manage was a fitted sheet thrown on top of the mattress on the floor for our first sleep in the house.  All that mattered was that we were home.

Our home.

Zach, the month of May in 2011 brought heat with such intensity it was hard to go outside without being drenched in sweat let alone slaving inside without any A/C.  You just couldn’t rationalize having the air blowing around dust onto freshly painted walls.  I agreed but I am fairly certain we both lost about 10 pounds that weekend and the following one just from the amount we sweated.  We spent one weekend cleaning the house that had somehow been locked up and empty for six months (still not understood why because the house, backyard, and neighborhood are amazing!), moving, unpacking, and organizing.  We had our work cut out for us. 

That second weekend we both know that we did much more to this house than we should have considering we are  just renting.  But it was our vision and we wanted to get it done.  We painted every single room in the sweltering heat.  There were electrical outlets that needed to be rewired, baseboards to be repaired and repainted in the excruciating humidity, carpets to be cleaned, light fixtures to be replaced, bathroom tiles to be glued down, faucets to be replaced, window screens to be repaired.  I could keep going.  The list is actually endless.  It was an extremely overwhelming task but it was ours and although it was the hottest moving day that ever was, it was ours; our vision and our home.  I would never dream to have been anywhere else.

Zach, I can’t believe it has been one year already.  I cannot believe that the absolute pride we felt moving into this house has vanished.  It no longer means as much.  Am I still proud of our house?  Our renovations?  The amount of work, time, and money we put into it?  Can I see the worth regardless of the sweat and heat?  Of course.  I am insanely proud of our home.  We did good.  We were a great team.  We turned this house into something it could have never been otherwise.  But now what does all that mean?  It doesn’t mean as much.

This is our home.  It always will be.  This house screams your existence because you are meant to be here and because every surface, appliance, fixture, and electrical outlet has your touch.  Everything about this house still stands in this great condition because of you.  I was only your “sous chef” of the house renovation world.  We did it all.  I just desperately wish you were still here to enjoy and love it with me.  This home is so empty without you.

“A house is made of walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams.”
~~ Christian Morganstern