It’s been six years since the night I left you at the hospital. Since the last time I kissed your cheek and felt your fingers squeeze mine. Since you told the nurse you had been talking to Jesus. Since you told me to make sure my boobs weren’t hanging out of my shirt (because of course you did. Of course that was what you were worried about the day before you died).
I’ve forgotten what your voice sounds like. When I replay memories of you, it’s my own voice that comes out of your mouth because I can’t conjure up how yours sounded. I can’t remember little things anymore; your favorite song, how you took your coffee. I used to remember them better than my own but they’re starting to slip away and no matter how I try, I can’t hold onto them. I know it’s natural, after so many years, to begin to let things go. I know it’s part of this extended grieving process; that it’s even considered healthy by some. But even if it’s natural, it still feels like a betrayal.
But I wanted you to know that there are things I haven’t forgotten. I haven’t forgotten how to make perfect dippy eggs, or aggressively maneuver the streets of downtown Pittsburgh, or any of the words to any Simon and Garfunkel song. I haven’t forgotten how good it felt to make you laugh, or to hear you say you were proud of me, or to feel your arms around me in a good, tight hug.
I hope that I still make you proud. Despite that I’ve done things I know we would have fought about, things you would have disapproved of. Of course I have. But there were things I think you were wrong about—things that I can’t pretend we would have agreed upon. And on the other hand, there have been many, many things that I wish I could tell you you were right about. That I’m sorry for all the times I was a typical teenager. For all the things I wish I had known then so we could have spent less time fighting. There are so many things I wish I could take back—so many times I rolled my eyes or slammed my door or stomped away from you.
Sometimes I think it would be better if people wore their expiration dates stamped on them somewhere like a carton of milk. I think we’d be kinder to one another if we had any idea how short twenty years really is when it’s all the time you get with someone you love.
I hope you’re still watching us. I hope you can see that I smile every day, that I write every day, that I didn’t settle, that I found someone who loves me more than I thought possible, that I’m cared for and that I’m loved and that I’m trying my best to do some good in the world. I hope you know that even though I can’t hear you say them anymore, I still remember the things you said, the things you taught me.
There’s a hole in my heart that won’t ever truly heal. Love has patched it over and time has dulled its constant ache, but it’s still there. It will be there forever. It’s in the shape of you, Mom. It’s the space where you used to be. I don’t want anyone to try to fill it. I don’t want it to heal. It’s the proof that you were here—the scar I get to wear from loving someone who left us too soon.
This letter is the best that I can do on these cold and lonely January nights. I hope it’s enough to let you know that your absence is still felt, and that the good things you did are still echoing back in the people you loved.
I hope you know how much we still miss you.
I hope you know how much we still love you.