one year down*.

* Trigger Warning: hospitals, death, depression, suicidal ideations

“You have put one foot in front of the other and made it this far.” -My therapist

I don’t know how. Since Sunday, my mind has played over and over the images and conversation had with palliative care. The small waiting room. Me, the only one crying. I don’t know how Dad or L held it together.

I remember saying I just wanted you to go. Or talking to Dad about how much of a “relief” it would be when you do. I was so, so incredibly wrong. Maybe you felt the same way. I know you at least felt like a burden to me for taking care of you. If you were here now, if we were sitting face to face, I would give anything to go back to that. Anything. My job. My apartment. Just to see you, hug you, talk to you again. Doesn’t help that I feel like I’m in Hell.

Whatever bold wishes or dreams you had for me and my life, they’re going nowhere right now. The little girl brimming with fresh optimism? You must’ve taken her with you. I’m sitting here, typing this, one year later, wishing there had been the option to go with you.

I can’t tell you how many people I encountered that threw the whole “The first year is always the hardest” line at me. The first year is the hardest. A global pandemic, shitty election, and systemic racism makes it worse. My optimism, my hope - it left the building with you and I don’t see getting it back. And you know me. Staying optimistic while looking at low income housing for you? What was I thinking?

If I learned anything this year, it’s that I envy the dead. I don’t know if Heaven is real. I don’t know if you’re actually “with” your family. (I’d like to think you are) If any of it is in fact real, skeptic as I may be, I wonder if anyone caught you up on the last few months of your life. Was it like watching a movie? Did you get to do the whole “It’s A Wonderful Life” backtrack kind of thing and watch how things panned out for you and me? For L? Has everything gone 180? Where now you’re with your family but you miss your kids?

I know you used to hate when people would tell you that your dead loved one was “in a better place”. Believe me when I tell you - they’re right. If I’ve gotten anything out of this year, death sucks because the living are left on Earth to suffer. Mom, wherever you are, Heaven or wandering around Earth or realistically - somewhere at Ohio University - it’s better than here. This last year has shown me the Earth is filled with people that do not care. They don’t care about others, improvement, bettering themselves and the world. It’s every person for themselves and thank God all of this is only temporary.

I’ve read countless devotionals and “grief” bullshit that clearly wasn’t written with COVID-19 being a thing. I’m glad you don’t have to be here for any of it but navigating life is hard without you. Mid-20’s means nothing - I still need my mom. I’m still a kid. You were right, we should’ve sat down with you about your will and your estate. Somehow one year later we’re still trying to figure that out. I could not care less about what it entails. Or opening an ancillary estate.

I’m sure it’s a joy to finally be able to breathe. No smoke filled hallways or people slamming doors. No cramped 1 bedroom apartment you pinch pennies for. Boy, I still would have loved to buy you a little house with a garden. No more struggles with walking and seeing and hearing. You’d be delighted knowing I have a job now that fits what I studied in college and helps people. I hate that I can’t sit in your apartment with you to tell you all about it. Or that I start grad school in about 2 months. Assistive Technology Engineering.

Boxes of your things continue to make itself at home here. Anything I’ve unpacked were items I needed but otherwise it’s all boxed up. I looked at photo albums Sunday and cried. I don’t want to unpack them. Not yet, anyways. There’s a bag in the laundry room that says St. Elizabeth on it - with your pink tennis shoes and framed photos that the rehab center asked me to bring in for your speech therapy. Your walking cane and walker are still in the trunk of my car. Another bag filled with items from the room you passed away in. Your eyeglasses. I can’t bring myself to put anything away. I can’t explain it - at least not in a way that makes sense - but keeping these things in the open makes me feel like you’re still here.

I guess in another way, your death feels like an explosion. The boxes and bags of things are nothing more than shreds and remnants I have left of you to hold onto while I’m here.

In the eyes of this year, of every waking moment and detail, every unfortunate and terrible thing that has taken place this year - grieving and healing has been impossible. I won’t even entertain the possibility of arguing that statement. I don’t know how many times I’ve thought to myself, “I don’t want to be here anymore.” And I don’t. There’s no “cherishing the loved ones that are still alive” when some airborne virus makes its way wherever and you’re surrounded by human beings with no regard for you or the people you love. We don’t really do holidays anymore. L doesn’t feel like cooking and I don’t blame him. Plus, add a virus in and there’s no sense in trying it this year. We did Christmas with Dad last year but something tells me that won’t take place this year. There’s no hanging out with friends to keep my mind off of you. No going to the beach and putting sand between my toes, feeling the sun on my face and wondering if you're smiling and glad I’m having a good day. Alumni Weekend was canceled this year. No going to the farm. Nothing.

If Heaven is real, or if you’re “watching” over me, chances are you know by now I’m not doing well - at all. I’ve had ideations but this year has made them worse. It’s like, instead of having flare-ups of pain in my body it’s just flare ups in my head. Another statement I won’t entertain another side to? This life is not worth it. The cards you were dealt. The cards I was dealt. Before you passed, Dad and I sat in my apartment and talked about if we’d want an “afterlife” or the chance to do life again. I don’t. I don’t want it.

There’s also the crisis of faith I am in now. I know you remember me going to church around the time of your first stroke, which is not the case anymore. I believe in God, sure. Believing He wants any “good” for me or the rest of the world is different.

I find it so hard to believe that 365 days have passed. My mind won’t let up on the flashbacks, the reminders of how everything went down. The time. The drive. Walking into the hospital. Walking into your room. Your nurses. Your breathing. The last breath. Calling TOD. The silence. I think about the concept of time to the point that it freaks me out. How I’m sitting here at 3:35 a.m. on November 17th, 2020 and this time last year, I was asleep. I thought you had weeks left. Days. I felt like it was okay to shut my eyes, that I’d have more time with you. That I’d have more days to sit with you and hold your hand. I remember trying to hold your hand before you passed. It was cold and purple.

I don’t know how I’ve put one foot in front of the other. I don’t know how I’ve done it and I don’t know how to keep doing this. I don’t know how to navigate through this. How to live in a world that’s cruel. In a life I don’t find beautiful. All I can say is maybe you can bring me hope, and healing. But I know now is your time to rest. Maybe someday I can do the same.

I love you and miss you forever.