Commercial Break: 3 years and counting

I’ve thought about what I would write today. I’ve thought about it a lot. So much so that I’ve been thinking about this post since December. In December I stood in front of the ‘185 White Chairs’ art installation in Christchurch, New Zealand and sobbed. Broad daylight. Boxing Day. Me. Sobbing. I cried because there were two pieces of paper in sheet protectors hanging up in a small wooden structure by the installation. One was a poem on grief and the other was a quote about loss. Ever since that moment where I burst out into tears in front of this memorial, I’ve thought about today and what it means to me. 

Today marks 3 years since I found out Jimmy died. It feels weird to say that, even 3 years later. But it feels weird in a different way than it did when he had been gone for a year and even two. It feels weird to say it because it’s officially a fact. It’s not just sad event that happened anymore, it is what has defined and shaped the last 3 years of my life. I’ve lived the last 3 years grasping at whatever I can to create some resemblance of a person I want to be. But I’ve been doing it because I have this fear of dying without experiencing life. 

You see, when Jimmy died, things changed. Looking back now, I feel like I can better reflect with a clearer mind on how his passing truly affected me. I can still remember the moment I found out. I was in West Seattle at a 7/11 dropping off a Redbox. It was a normal Saturday and that night my best friend and I were going to an alumni event. I got back in her gold Ford Focus ready to go hang at her apartment across the street for a few hours and then start getting ready. I sat down and she stared at me. She handed me her phone and said ‘is this a joke?’ I looked at her phone at a Facebook post and just stared. I remember thinking it had to be some deranged joke but as I read through the comments it started to settle in. What was only about a minute felt like hours as I read each person’s comment on how sad they were, how shocked they were, as they dished out condolences to his wife and family. I cried for hours after that. And continued to cry for days, and months. There were moments all through 2013 where I couldn’t handle being around people because everything reminded me of the bright future Jimmy and his wife had. Everything reminded me that she was now a 25 year old widow who had to start all over. Everything reminded me of the pain that I was going through, of the pain that people I loved were going through and the pain that would never really go away. It still hasn’t but it’s been muted. 

But looking back now, that day marks so much more than just Jimmy leaving us forever. It marks the day that I felt like my world shattered around me and I was left standing alone trying desperately to pick up the pieces and put it back together like a puzzle. But everytime I regained some semblance of a life I could be happy in, it would all come crashing down. I had my friends and family to help me through this and for that, I am eternally grateful. I am grateful for the hours people have spent listening to me sob and talk about him. I am grateful for the advice, the hang outs and the support. But it was still up to me to pick up my shattered world and piece it back together. 

It’s been hard. It is hard. And it will continue to be hard. I know this now. And I can say it without breaking down in tears. I can say ‘Jimmy is gone’ without feeling the need to sit overwhelmed with emotion and wait until I can catch my breath again. 

The beginning of March is something I dread because it marks just how long my friend has been gone. But now, on a more selfish level, it marks just how little I’ve accomplished. It marks how much I have and have not grown over the past few months. It marks a time of reflection on what I have done, what I have seen and what my future plans are. 

I miss Jimmy. I miss the days when I didn’t have to think about the ‘what ifs’. But now, all my big decisions are followed by a ‘what if I don’t have a tomorrow, would I be disappointed I didn’t do that?’ I don’t know if I like this way of living, but it has been what has gotten me through the last 3 years and will continue as I grow older. 

Today marks 3 years since I found out Jimmy died. But it also marks 3 years since I started trying to put my life back together. It marks 3 years of creating something I can be proud of and a base for the future, no matter what it holds. 

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