[I wrote this poem on March 2 of this year--exactly 2 weeks after my Aunt Neni went home to Jesus. Know that while I reference "a couple of weeks" in the beginning of the poem, everything in it still holds true, now almost 2 months after we lost her.]
I lost a loved one today.
Or maybe it was a couple of weeks ago
but it feels like today.
I can still picture myself with her,
sitting, talking, laughing...
Laughing was the best of all.
I still go to my phone to call--
and then am reminded no one will answer.
The number I've known since I was pre-memory--gone.
I'm sure someday I may dial that number and find a stranger on the line.
A stranger who has no idea how much meaning in engrained in those seven digits,
and in my memory.
A stranger who will not know how fun that number sequence is for a little kid to dial,
and how much that fun escalated when the line was answered--
and how sad it got when the line fave its NAAA NAAA NAAA NAAA--
and how it was a game for a kid to see how many times she could make the call before the line was free and answered with the "hello" that transcended all negative emotions.
"Hey Neni!!" was always the child's greeting; always my greeting; always ours.
Since I lost a loved one, I oft still sit on the recliner int he middle of a UK game,
screaming in either ecstasy or anger, and mentally note to call that number and talk about the play and how good the Cats are--wait--
You can't call, Becca, she's gone.
That is when the sadness comes.
Or in the middle of watching a program-that-is-not-Dr.- Oz on TV
and for whatever reason have the urge to dial those digits that don't even merit concentration anymore.
I actually never saved them into my phone--because who needs it saved when you've had a lifetime of dialing-fun?
Again, the sadness comes.
Again, I remind myself it can't happen.
Becca, she's gone. She's not there waiting for you to call.
I say to my inner critic--the tormentor who is hell-bent on forcing me to fully acknowledge, and deal with, the reality.
A reality better off left alone, I think.
A reality I refuse to feel.
The sadness-monster comes and goes and comes.
She is good at leaving me for a day-long vacation which sometimes, if I'm lucky, extends to a weekend.
But when she makes her rounds and knocks on my sternum, the door to my heart, if I even peek through the cracks, she intrudes and invades,
saying only, cry, regrets, ache, longing, gone.
Many times she ends with one word--you.
It's the "you" that get me most.
I masticate the you until its full meaning is ready for digestion.
But when I swallow the you my mouth is cotton and sandpaper and I choke and spit out the you,
only now the you has evolved into an "I" and it is in my lap and I understand, now I understand. I.
I purposely didn't answer that last call because I was not up to talking.
I justified it by naming my "not up to it", "sick", and let the call go through to voicemail.
The last voicemail.
The last voicemail to exist on my phone with the
"It's just me" greeting--
a greeting that tells me more than using a name.
A greeting I've known uniquely for her for 24 years.
A greeting I now only have saved in my phone archives along with guilt for not calling back--
and in there also is the guilt and failure I have saved and pent up
when I brushed off her question in the hospital--
when I went to the mall or the cafe or just drove around for no reason at all,
instead of visiting her.
Visiting her on the street two blocks away from OUR cemetery with pretty fall leaves and bike rides,
and two blocks away from the house where I grew up with her in the mornings and my mom and dad in the afternoons and evenings.
Those visits I had, there will be no more.
The visits I didn't make, there is no way to rewind time and ensure I make them.
All I have left are regrets for the time I chose other things above the visits and memories of the visits I did make.
Memories are nicer.
They don't make your heart bleed as much.
I lost a loved one today.
I lost a loved one a couple of weeks ago and I still lost her today.
I lose her all over again, sometimes several times a day,
but at least once.
I lost a loved one today.
A loved one with whom I cannot count the number of times we stood in her kitchen,
always the kitchen,
and I voiced my fear, "I just get sad and worried that I'll be in heaven when I die and I want you to be there but I have to know that you're saved because I can't be there without you."
And she tried to assure me, "Oh honey, don't you worry about me, I'll be in heaven,"
and I always wondered--even when I was as young as seven or eight--how she knew that
when the topic of salvation was typically changed quickly to a conversation about the dangers of Mountain Dew or how she was going to write a letter to the President that he himself would probably read or how Dr. Oz never talks about the heart.
Assurance never really came until the days surrounding the un-returned call, before and after.
Conversations were had between mom and great-aunt-grandmother
during which the latter mentioned God and His healing power more than ever before.
A devotional with a green ribbon bookmark on February eighth--
the day of the un-returned call--
An acknowledgement of a special Christmas gift--a personal bible--
"I've never had one like my daddy's since I was a little girl."
These are the things I choose to remember right now because God sends signs to those who need comfort when they need it the most.
She always worried about me--
tearful conversations on my way out of her house,
a beyond-sad expression in her eyes as she pleaded with me to "eat more, you have to, I can't stand you going away again."
I always felt like a cold, emotionless person when I'd assure her, "I will, I promise,"
even though sometimes I knew I didn't intend to.
Strangely enough, one of the most comforting things since I lost a loved one
is knowing, finally, that even though I lost her, God gained her--
and more than that, she no longer has to worry about me--
no longer has to worry about anything at all.
And then, for a moment, the sadness-monster leaves me.
And I smile.