Dear Aunt Teresa,
On September 23, you died in a car accident. It feels like I've been trapped in one never-ending terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
I sleep only because of the drugs I take, but I don't remember sleeping when I wake up. The exhaustion has settled into my organs, the sad deep inside my bones. Sometimes I feel absent from my body. I've communed with death before, but I've never been surprised by it. These emotions are unfamiliar and I am without a compass.
When I think I'm doing okay, the memory of getting the news washes over me as if I'm just hearing it for the first time. When I think I'm doing okay, I feel guilty about moving forward. The grief has blanketed my brain and sunk its teeth into my heart.
I am bleeding out.
Driving has always been a favorite past time, and it still is, but I'm riddled with anxiety when I'm behind the wheel. They say you died instantly, but did you? I hope you did, but hoping for any kind of death doesn't sit well with me. Do I hope you didn't know it happened?
Hunger is a feeling I invite; at least it's a different pain to focus on. I am uninterested in satiating myself until it hurts too much. I hold out for the hurt and when it yells at me, I revolt. I'm stubborn that way. Don't tell me what to do, body!
I told my doctor on Monday to please not tell me how much, or how little, I weigh.
Mourning with family—family I don't know that well, family who doesn't really know me—offered a sense of comfort. But now we are all back to our lives with our immediate family units in our own homes. It's the first time I think I've really missed having my own little family island to escape to; the first time I've truly missed having a husband. I was getting used to being home alone. I was enjoying it. Now I'm restless, anxious; fearful of burdening my chosen family, my friends, with these very big, very messy emotions. Hiding inside myself isn’t working though and I’ve forced myself to ask for help.
I read the history of our texts and cry when I get to August 20. "Hi, wish you were here." I wish I had been there. I wish you were still here. I've been texting you to keep your name at the top of my messages, to tell you the things about my life I never got to share. I believe you wanted to know me—to know the person I’ve become.
I’m not sure if anyone else will power on your phone and see these texts, and I’m not sure how long your number will still belong to you. I guess I’ll keep texting until I don’t.
I wish I had come to see you instead of worrying about money or it being "the right time". Grandmother said you wanted to be the best aunt to your nieces and nephews and I can confirm, you absolutely were. You were a model of strength for me in so many ways—from leaving the church and making your beliefs your own to finding your way in the world as a single divorced woman. You taught me more than I think you realized. I don't want to live without you but I know I'll see you again. Our souls will find each other.
I'm home now and the missing you hurts as if I just heard the news again because I am alone.
How did you live alone for so long in Dutch Harbor? On the one hand, it sounds lovely.
The small town.
It's so hard not to be married right now, to not have someone available to me every night to fall into at the end of the day; to carry the weight of this grief with me. A deep sad has made its home in the center of my being and it sends a soft but consistent wave of shock through my body.
When I got home on Sunday afternoon, I couldn't be still. I unloaded my things , said hello to Pixel, and immediately left my apartment in search of food. I sat at the bar of a local pizza place that serves slices bigger than my head with the intention of eating, having a glass of wine in your honor, and then wandering home to crawl into bed and rest. I never ordered a slice though because food is hard to care about. Instead, I was the mysterious but obvious crying lady drinking wine alone at the bar where everyone around me had gathered to watch the football game. I felt like a nuisance. I drank my wine as quickly as I could (I'm a slow drinker of everything so that's not saying much), and walked to the bar I know… the bar that knows me.
Chandler is one of the bartenders at Prost and I wish you could've met him. He's the sweetest man. He's my emergency contact, my best, my chosen. I bet you had someone like him after your divorce… at least I hope you did. He's been with me every step of the way, encouraging me to be me and defending me when I'm scared of being me. With your passing (I hate that term, passing), he hasn't skipped a beat. On Sunday, he stayed with me until I was ready to attempt sleep. We ate ramen (he always makes sure I eat, and he’s very convincing) and then I sat in the middle of a soccer field downtown Seattle while he practiced throwing Frisbee discs. He's really into disc golf right now. He even taught me how to throw them with purpose, haha, but they still went a little crazy. Aiming is harder than I expected! Good thing he’s so patient.
He drove me back to my apartment and walked me inside. He kept me distracted while I tried to unpack my things. Everything in it's right place…
We played the Wikipedia game and listened to music and he fixed my jammed camera. He even humored me and let me put these weird jelly eye things that look like goopy leeches on his face.
And we talked about you.
He always knows exactly what I need. He just knows me that way, you know?
Oh, but I was really upset at Pixel. I left the one printed photo I have of us on my table and she chewed the edges and then hid the evidence under the refrigerator. I was beside myself looking for it until Chandler pulled it out with a hanger.
I also found a grief meditation that I've listened to a few times. It offers an opportunity to talk to the person you miss but up until I got home, I wasn't ready to see you. On Sunday night though I was ready, and when you knocked on my front door I let you in. You were shrouded in light. My entire body smiled. I could feel you everywhere. You were sporting a Farrah Fawcett shag and wearing a glowing white robe. We laughed about it. You said that hairstyle was one of your favorites so you wanted to try it out again and you picked the glowing white robe to feel angelic. It made perfect sense to me. You were beautiful.
Thanks for visiting me. I hope we do that again soon.
I've decided to get a tattoo of your handwriting. In July, you sent me a birthday card signed, "Love, Aunt Teresa." You didn't need to write anything else because the card expressed your sentiment exactly and all that was left to say was "love". I'm going to tattoo your love onto me as a reminder to love and be loved. Maybe I'll do that today.
I miss you in my body and soul.