Relativity

hourglass image

“I have lived thirty years in these thirty days. I am thirty years sadder. I feel like I am thirty years wiser.” –Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, posting one month after her husband’s death

I wrestled in my younger days. And while I thought wrestling three, one-minute periods was tough in middle school, I had no idea what was waiting for me once I got to high school. I was a wiry, tenacious, hard-nosed 112 pound kid. You take one of me, and put me up against another kid just as dogged, and let us grapple each other for three, two-minute periods, and what have you got? Two purple-faced kids trying not to lose their cookies in front of the wrestlerettes. Never before had I known that six minutes of one’s life could be so agonizing, so prolonged. The harder the encounter, the more the hourglass defied gravity. And so it has been in the weeks since Alicia died. That’s why Sheryl Sandberg has got some serious street cred in my book, she knows what’s what.

This time distortion is only made all the more jacked up because my internal clock seems to have been reset to the time of her passing. Everything since gets measured against that painful point of reference. Every passing day, each week, my mind constricts around the notion that I’m somehow further from her. She’s the Wilson to my castaway Tom Hanks. Oh how I desperately want to jump off this raft and claw my way back to that day, to the hour of our forced separation. Only it doesn’t work that way, and I find myself being pulled slowly, agonizingly, further away with each passing moment. All that’s left is to collapse on this piece of shit, rudderless raft and wail, knowing I’m powerless to do a goddamn thing about the fact that I’ve lost her. In my weeping I’ve mumbled these thoughts to myself countless times, but I now have need of screaming them out to her as time carries me away,

“I’M SORRY ALICIA, I’M SORRY YOU GOT CANCER…I’M SORRY YOU SUFFERED THROUGH SO MUCH…I’M SORRY YOU COULDN’T EAT ANY LONGER AND YET YOUR HUSBAND IS AN SLP AND EVEN HE COULDN’T HELP YOU SWALLOW ANYMORE…I’M SORRY IT HURT YOUR TONGUE TO TALK AND YOUR WORDS WERE HARD TO UNDERSTAND…I’M SO SORRY I WASN’T THE ONE STRAPPED INTO THE MASK EVERY DAY AS THEY BURNED MY TONGUE AND MY FACE AND MY NECK WITH RADIATION…I’M SORRY YOU STOPPED FEELING LIKE A MOM TO OUR BOYS…I’M SORRY I GOT FRUSTRATED WHEN I WAS DOING EVERYTHING AND YOU WERE COMING HOME EVERY NIGHT AFTER WORK AND COLLAPSING ON THE COUCH AND WE DIDN’T KNOW YOU HAD CANCER YET AND I SAID I FELT LIKE A SINGLE PARENT, BECAUSE I’M A SINGLE PARENT NOW AND I GET IT, IT’S SO MUCH HARDER. I’M SO, SO SORRY ALICIA, SORRY FOR EVERYTHING, PLEASE CAN YOU STILL HEAR ME I’M SORRY…

 

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7 thoughts on “Relativity

  1. Josh please look at how much you did for her! She never once blamed you. She was always telling me how awesome you were for her and the boys! I totally get being sorry and feeling guilt. We always do once someone leaves us, There are always those things you wished you did! It’s normal to feel this way but don’t let it tarnish the beauty of what was really there and there until the end!!! Your boys also saw a real husband a real father and a real friend to the end! They know what it means now to love unconditionally. You and Alicia gave them that!

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  2. Its not somthing you want to hear right now but I am so proud of you and how you are looking grief in its ugly fucking face and speaking your mind. I’m in awe of how brave you are to do this and to share your processing with us… Much like tom hanks on his raft floating between his past and present you will preserver into the future.

    Sending you love

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    1. Chelsey, you’re just awesome. I love how you speak your mind too. Not a meeting goes by that I don’t appreciate having you in the room with me. Thanks again for being someone in the room who “gets it”, who’s lost someone dear to cancer. Much love to you girl.

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  3. Dawn, my sister and friend, thanks so much for responding. Know that I don’t stay in that space too long, I agree with you that it is so counterproductive to dwell there. Nevertheless, those thoughts do come, whether we invite them or even actively try to prevent them. I’m learning just to let them come, observe them, and bid them on their way. Putting them into writing felt so good, I was able to see them before me, and they didn’t have as much emotional weight once I saw them as an outsider. After she passed, I sought out Alicia’s doctors and nurses once I felt up to doing it. It took several weeks. But, it was so healing. I think they, and I, needed to hear from each other that we did everything we could. We needed to agree with each other how beautiful she was, how easy to care for she was, and how devastated we were over the outcome. You’ve touched my heart with those words about what Alicia and the boys saw through our ordeal. You have my sincerest gratitude for hanging in there with us through this process.

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  4. Time likes to play tricks on us. Speeding up and slowing down. Always the opposite of what we want. I wish I could take the slow motion agony away from you. None of this is fair.

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  5. Josh thank you for sharing your grief with all of us. This is a horrible thing you are going through and it feels like the understatement of the century to say that it totally and completely sucks. Just know that we are out here reading your words. They aren’t going out into the void. We hear you.

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    1. That’s a comfort, knowing that they aren’t going into the void Jennifer. Beautifully said. I sometimes feel like these scribbles are my “shout into the wind”, but I know they’re helping me process it. Couldn’t ask for more than to have a group of friends who are willing to “listen”!

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