Tomorrow is my 30th birthday.
The day after tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the worst day of my life.
I used to love my birthday. More than a grown woman should. So, it’s a weird feeling to not be tangibly, annoyingly excited about it.
But the thing is: I can’t untangle the days.
I can’t change the calendar to make August 3rd come, say, in the middle of March, somewhere far away from August 4th.
I have many memories for the August 3rds of my life, yet only one for the August 4ths.
August 3rd. The day my friends chalked my driveway to say “Happy 18th!” The day he gave me a bracelet that said “I love you,” but was too afraid to say it. The day I celebrated with a very strange cake in Mombasa, Kenya. The day he bought my first legal shot — and I ended up puking in the bushes. (Okay, fine, that’s happened on more than one of them.) The day I grilled venison and bear for my besties in Alaska. The day I got mad because he missed my party.
August 4th. The day he died.
When I think of one, I think of the other.
They’re like stones to me now — seeing either makes my heart sink, fast and deep.
August 3rd, August 4th.
Celebrate on one, mourn on the other? Or just mourn on both?
What happened was tragic, excruciating, unfair. It’s insanely heartbreaking to think of all he will miss, and all he has left behind.
Bob’s life should be mourned. And it has been.
So many of us have lost sleep and laughter and joy and so many tears because he is gone.
So many of us have spent so many hours wishing things were different. Wishing he were still here.
But he isn’t coming back. He isn’t coming back. I say it twice so maybe I will really accept it. So maybe I will really believe it.
And so maybe, on August 3rd and August 4th, I can choose to celebrate life.
To keep living the life that, for one person, my person, was cut short.
To keep living life for that person, my person, whose life was cut short.
In one of my grief books, I read a sentence that’s become a mantra: “His life is over; yours is not.”
Whenever I feel guilty for enjoying life — like he did, and would, if he were still here — I tell myself that.
Because really, what other choice do we have? The best way to honor his memory is living the shit out of the life that was taken from him.
It’s celebrating life and love on these days; it’s celebrating everything Bob was every day.
Maybe the goal isn’t untangling — maybe, instead, it’s finding peace amidst the knots.
Yes, I’ll cry today and tomorrow and the day after that. But I’ll also smile. And laugh and dance and even drink a Bud Light.
I’ll close the door on my third decade, and I’ll know…
I’m not whole, but I am okay.
I’m not invincible, but I am strong.
I’m not sure where I’m going, but I am traveling on.
And will always be grateful for the journey.
Thank you to everyone who’s supported me over the toughest year of my life.
And that means everyone: from the friends and family who cried by my side to the family who’s taken me in as their own.
To the man who’s been inhumanly patient as I mourn the loss of another, to the colleagues who buoyed me with their daily brilliance, the readers who shared their own stories of grief, the strangers who pledged not to text and drive, and even to the random people on the street who smiled at me when they had no idea I really, really needed it.
I am not exaggerating when I say I would not have made it through the past 12 months without you.
Thank you for the hugs, the laughs, the “how are yous,” the notes, the love. You give me strength in the present and hope for the future, and I want each one of you to know what a difference you’ve made. I love you.