Just after 5am the phone rings and I know it’s the call I’ve been dreading since the day the word cancer became a part of our day to day vocabulary. I know what news is on the other end of the receiver; it only rings at this time of the morning for bad news.
This means you’re gone.
I don’t remember much else. I think I felt pretty numb. It was a Monday morning. Mondays were not the same for a long time after that. It was always ‘x’ weeks since you left us. Since you broke free from your broken, scarred, toxic shell and flew over the cliffs and the raging sea at Manly and off into eternity.
We flew over to say goodbye to you, but it was a technicality. I said my goodbyes to you so many times before – the visit to Sydney in November, driving home, holding my breath the day before that… staring at the clock every two minutes wondering if that would be the time you left your body and stepped into glory.
Then Christmas. Then Boxing Day, when I had to wake you to say what would be my final goodbye, the last time I saw you on earth. I touched your arm, I hated waking you, but you were sleeping nearly 20 hours a day at this stage, and I knew this would be the last time I saw you in this life. It was the worst feeling I think I’ve ever known, leaving that room, in that hospital hallway. It was covered in decorations, blue tinsel, white cotton buds clumped together to form clouds.
An effort to make this cold place less cold.
It hurts so much remembering this, so I delegate it for the moments I’m alone, the moments when I can fall apart and miss you and let out some of the toxic tears that get pushed down each time I see something that reminds me of you, or even worse, someone. I’ve seen you in so many strangers, the shape of their shoes, the cut or wash of their jeans, the shape of their shaved head. My breath is coming in short sharp gasps now because my heart breaks every time I go to this place. I know this is my corner of the earth to miss you, I know talking to you alone in my apartment in my adult married life is not the same as face to face, but this is what I have.
I remember you clearly. It’s a crisp, sharp, accurate memory of you, and it includes the parts that didn’t make the highlight reel, but to me those are the deepest embedded. In my mind’s eye I’m in the recording studio with you, as you mutter about the sound of the rain in the air conditioning vents while we’re trying to record my vocal tracks. You had that ridiculously expensive microphone that picked up absolutely every sound. I’m smiling thinking of this.
I remember the bounce in your step. You used to walk hard on the balls of your feet, in my mind’s eye I’m remembering you running up to the sound desk at church. I remember when you did that with hair, I remember when you did that without it. I remember your perm. I’m smirking thinking of this.
I remember clearly the words you said; the good, the bad, the harsh, the loving, all the in between. I remember that one phone call where you humbled yourself and apologized for being so hard on me. I remember the other phone call where you told me that you truly believed I could be great through my music. I’m crying thinking of this.
I remember once reading your journal. Not my finest moment as a little sister, but I read one entry where you came home after mixing sound at a New Year’s Eve gig in Perth where you met a homeless man with a hole in his throat. You bought him dinner and then came home and poured your heart out to God about how much it broke you to see a man so in need. I’m inspired thinking of this.
And then I remember after you left; the irreparable hole you left in the lives of those who loved you and truly knew you, and even of those who didn’t. I remember your funeral, as they put on a show you would have loved to have been part of, and remember thinking how fitting it was that you had the best seat in the house; flat on your back in the middle of the front of the stage. Your sword on your coffin, three white roses and that painting. I’m empty thinking of this.
Sometimes I miss you so much I can’t breathe. For all your sharp edges, we were wired the same. We were cut from the same cloth. We were the minority, but we had each other. That is something I don’t think anyone understands about my loss. You were the reason I learned to play music, the reason I pursued my dreams in Sydney. You were the reason so many of them came true. But above all else, you were the safe place I could run to with my hurts, my anger, my frustration, my outrage. You were me in another body.
To suddenly find myself adrift in a world of others who don’t hear my heart, who don’t know who I really am, who don’t understand how I’m wired, what I was born to do, who I was made to be… that is the part that destroys. That is the grief.
I am mourning the loss of part of me. I am mourning the loss of my counterpart.
Life goes on. People move forward. I think, for all the grief I am doing this. But the ache doesn’t really lessen. It just shifts about. Sometimes it pours like a storm down my face, other times it thuds quietly like the hum of an engine in my chest.
All I can say is this:
Two years you’ve been gone and I miss you now more than I ever have.
You should have been there for my wedding.
You should have been here for Jakey’s first day of school. For all the moments in the last two years.
And it hurts like hell. Still.
2 Years on.