Living with a Ghost
Today marks the sixteenth anniversary of my friends passing. In writing this, I realized that in four short years I will be grieving her absence for twenty years. The age she was when she passed. The wave of emotions hit me as I steady my hand to write another entry in my journal about the void I feel. My adult life has been centered around the loss of my friend Mary. When I graduated college, planned a wedding, visited Greece, my mind drifted to the lingering thought, “I wish Mary was here.”
She was on my mind when I stood atop the Eiffel Tower overlooking the Parisian streets, wearing a hoodie that once belonged to her as I whispered, “We made it to Paris, Mares.” I have spent most of adult life wishing, thinking, and desperately trying to be the girl I was when she was alive. I try to will that girl into existence, but she seems unrattled. That girl remains dormant, and it makes me upset that I cannot reach her. I have spent so much energy in trying to revive that girl that in the process I failed to recognize that she died when Mary did.
Death changes you. It shatters you while changing your world and what remains is a shell of who you were. No one prepares you for how death affects you, you are only told about how it is part of life and that “time heals all.” The reality of death is much different. There is the life you knew before death happened, and the life you must live after it happens.
Friends become ghosts. Their absence is felt in moments of celebration. The birthday party they should be at, the wedding seat they should be sitting in. The feeling of missing them does not fade. There is always a tiny piece of you that is missing. A part of you that too becomes a ghost as you cling onto moments filled with joy and love. Your memories become cloudy the more time passes. I fear that I will no longer be able to recall the summer days we would run about, laughing until the stars covered the sky. Will the memories that have sustained me for so long be replaced, and will she be forgotten?
The thing I fear the most is losing her all over again. It is bad enough I had to watch her pink casket being carried into church, but to fail at keeping her memory alive would feel like a betrayal of the promises I made after she passed. After weeks of pleading with God to trade places with her and searching for answers to satisfy the loneliness that was instantaneously felt when receiving the news, I vowed to not forget her. I vowed to keep her memory alive by doing things she enjoyed.
With today being the anniversary of her death, I feel like my memories of her are starting to blur. I may not necessarily be forgetting the content of the memory, rather I feel my memories of her. I feel the warmth of the love we had for one another. I smile at the memory of her laughter. These days my memories of her are hard to visualize, rather they are rooted in emotions.
I rely on my recollection of our friendship when I miss her. When I feel lonely and need her, it is my memories that help ease the discomfort of the day. Truthfully, I do not think anyone else will ever know me the way she did. She understood me on a deeper level. She saw me. It is the comfort of her friendship that has left a void in my life. It is this void that I refuse to fill. To do so would be to replace her and she is irreplaceable.
For years I have been speaking to a ghost. I rely on my memories and all the little presents she sends me. From the stranger that feels compelled to share a thought, which happens to be one of Mary’s favorite catch phrases (it happens) to the way her favorite song will mysteriously play in my car. She reminds me that I am not alone. Although today is a painful reminder of my loss, it is also another opportunity to honor her. A day to rejoice in all she was and pray that she remains at peace in the afterlife.
Photo Credit: All pictures are Mari Rey Originals.