To grief, time is irrelevant. Time doesn’t heal the wound of irrevocable loss. Time just gives way for new circumstances and people to distract you from the pain that will never truly cease. Sometimes you can hide the grief, pretend it isn’t there, but the pain always resurfaces.
The days when I feel you should be present have proved the hardest. I fear they always will be. There are certain moments I always imagined you would be there for, visions of the future that play in my head like memories. Whenever I imagine past or future time with family, life milestones or general celebration you are there. I don’t know how to cut you from the film reel.
My graduation was one of the events you should have been there for. You already had your flights. You had written up the road trip itinerary for your week before. Your rental car was booked. You were figuring out what tartan you wanted for your kilt.
The entire grad week I waited. I waited for Mom to arrive. I waited for Carter and the road trip gang to show up. I waited until Dad had seen my room before I took down the collage on my wall. Then everyone arrived and I was still waiting. Graduation day came and I couldn’t keep my eyes on one subject, constantly looking around for a particular face in the crowd. Then it was time to leave St. Andrews before you arrived.
I had just gotten back from the three weeks of constant laughter and excitement grad trip was. I went from Copenhagen, to living in a van in Portugal, to living in a mad house in Portugal, to Sweden, and back to St. Andrews where Dad and Georgia were waiting for me. I had been constantly surrounded by fun and love that I hadn’t even thought of the pain I may feel in the upcoming week.
The day of graduation was warm and sunny. I know that was you. I smiled all day but my memories of graduation will always be rooted with an underlying sadness due to your absence. You would have yelled my name and cheered as I walked across the stage. You would have taken 100 photos. You would be confused when a curated selection of the photos wasn’t performing as well as you wanted it to on Instagram. But you weren’t there and the sunshine you provided didn’t make up for the lack of your charisma and humor.
Nobody in the family mentioned your name for the first day or so we were together. I think we were all scared that someone may break down if you were brought up. It wasn’t until Nicky pulled me aside the night of graduation that the weight of your absence was acknowledged.
He asked to speak to me privately as we sat in the courtyard of Dad’s rental house drinking champagne. We moved inside to the living room. I knew whatever he was going to say would bring me to tears. I was right. I felt the tears begin to fall as soon as he took a deep breath and started to speak. “Cammi there are no words. I understand what you’re going through and there are no words. Ike meant the world to me. You meant the world you him. That means you mean the world to me. I know things will never be the same. Things are and will be different. Let’s do our best to make that okay. We have to be strong. We have to go on. That’s what Ike would have done. Ike was so proud of you. He talked about you all the time. He loved you so much. I love you so much. We’ll be okay.” Carter saw us through the window and came in for a hug. We all embraced in a way that felt like home.
I went out that night and danced. I celebrated graduating. I realized I had joy deep in my heart when I looked around and realized people I loved surrounded me. Dancing ourselves sweaty and singing at the top of our lungs, I grew nostalgic thinking we would never do stuff like this again in this town. The entire room of people I was with would probably never be together at once again. Growing up is as beautiful as it is shitty. You find amazing people. These people become home to little pieces of your heart and constantly brighten your days. Then circumstances change and life takes them far away.
I miss you more than I thought was possible. Usually when you miss someone you acknowledge that they’re not there but realize life in the present is worth filling yourself with. Death is different. I miss you all down my spine and ache knowing there will never be a time when we get the joy of reuniting. You’re not just far from me you’re gone from earth. You’re not asleep under the same stars somewhere else. You’re above me. Nothing can connect these dimensions that keep us apart while I’m living the life I have to. Sometimes I feel so hopelessly alone because I am only longing for your company.
I played your playlist as I packed up my room the day after graduation. The grief monster lounged comfortably on my windowsill. He kept pressing me to tears by reminding me that the last time I packed up an apartment it belonged to you. He demanded I grieve my college years that have suddenly ended and you at the same fucking time.
Pushing me to my knees, the grief monster played “The God of Loss” as I took your picture down from my wall. It was the picture I snapped of you while we waited on our milkshakes in a Stake n Shake drive through. It was the picture I had used for the “I Like Ike” pins. I curled my body in tightly and held the photo to my heart. I cried as hard as I could without making a sound. I didn’t want anyone to see or hear me in such disarray. “Sanctuary” came on shuffle next. I blamed the grief monster. He really knows how to make it hurt. I felt like I had motion sickness as I sat still in my motionless room.
I missed you so badly and had been deeply happy for the past month that I felt I had to take an evening off to spend with my grief. I finally worked up the strength to read the letter Nicky left me and cried my eyes swollen at the closing line. I knew I couldn’t leave my room until the next morning. Learning “Ike was so proud of you. We spoke of you and your future about an hour before his passing” made time slow. Instead of going out and further celebrating graduation with my friends, I spent my Friday night re-reading the letter and listening to the Beatles. The line of the letter that reads “I lost my best friend. You lost your best friend and your brother” makes me lose my breath whenever I think of it. I desperately wanted to feel close to you. I just wanted you to be here for this week. I wanted your face to be in my graduation photos in more than just the button on my robe. I’ll always wish you could have been there.
Grad ball on Saturday night was the finale to the graduation celebrations. After the ball, everyone sat on the castle ruins and watched the sunrise. People were crying thinking of leaving the small safety net of St. Andrews. People were crying because their friends will live in different cities. People were crying because they were drunk and everybody else was crying so they felt obligated. I didn’t cry for any of these reasons. The tiny town was beginning to suffocate me. I know my friendships are strong enough to endure whatever distance comes between us. I wasn’t nearly as drunk as everyone else. I cried because I had missed you so much the whole week and had to act okay because it was a week of celebration. I cried not at fear of my new life chapter but at the realization that you won’t be apart of it. I cried realizing your role in my story was just another chapter I’ll never get to relive.