Note: For some reason I struggled to hit “publish” on this. When writing personal essays, I have a hard time letting go of humorous undertones like in my most recent post about men I’ve dated and stupid things I’ve done. That said, this will be a little bit of a different read. As always, thank you for allowing me to share myself with you, internet friends, in all my idiosyncrasies.
Do you remember the first moment you felt your heart shatter into irreparable pieces?
January 22nd of 2016 was a freezing cold, icy night. I was home from college dog sitting while my family was out of town. Our West Highland Terrier, Coconut, was outside doing her business while I watched from inside the front door when my phone rang.
Hey mom, how’s it-
Sam was in an accident… (it felt like an eternity-long pause right here)… and they’re saying he didn’t make it.
And then I literally blacked out. My phone was on the floor when I came back to reality and I wasn’t sure if I dropped it or if I set it there after I crouched down onto my knees. Coconut was scratching at the door, pleading for me to let her back inside. It was fifteen below zero. How long had she been out there?
I emailed my professors the next day to let them know I wouldn’t be back for classes that week. There had been a death in the family. Two of the four of them responded expressing their condolences, the other two requested I brought an obituary upon my return, as proof. I had experienced death before, so I assumed that I’d also experienced grief. I was comfortable with death because I am a follower of Christ. Death happened to everyone, but of course, I didn’t have to worry about that yet. I’ve learned that grief doesn’t really hit you until you lose someone whose absence actually throws off your center of gravity. The world suddenly seems different because they’re gone, but in a way that you can’t put your finger on. For awhile it doesn’t feel like you’re alive, it feels like life is something that is happening to you. The sun kept coming up but it stopped warming me.
A lot of love left my body that day. Unrequited love seemed like it had to be the worst kind of heartbreak; loving someone with your whole soul and not being loved by them in return? It hurts. But growing up with someone and loving them with an unconditional, sisterly love only to have them die after 17 years of life, making it astronomically impossible to get that love back? That wasn’t a hurt but a relentless ache, a wound that still festers and reopens several years later.
I lost each of my grandparents one by one every three to four months following Sam’s death until they were all gone by the fall of 2018. Coconut, too. I put her to sleep the night before the biggest exam of my life. My grandma on my mom’s side was the biggest hurt. She lived with me for the first seven years of my life and I lived with her when I was in college. Her phone calls were part of my daily routine. I have her handwriting tattooed on my body. She knew more about me than I knew about myself and I couldn’t even begin to tell you the amount of my secrets that died with her that October in 2017.
I didn’t know how much love my body had capacity for until all of it spilled out of me like hot, angry lava at the edge of her hospital bed at the realization that her name was finished lighting up my phone and I’d never hear her voice again. I often wonder how much loss the human heart was built to endure. Drive carefully, Call me when you land, Did you take your medication? Text me so I know you’re safe. Those sentiments have taken on a new meaning to me.
Do you believe all the love you have given will find its way back to you?
I imagine myself ten years from now, long after the hurt has settled in my body. I’m lying in bed with someone I love. He doesn’t replace all of the love that I’ve lost, but reminds me of them. The sun is pouring through the window; it is warm again.