I don’t know what to do with all the pictures of Amy that I’ve pulled out. For the last few weeks I’ve been looking at them with a sense of joy about who Amy was to me. This may seem strange, but without having seen Amy for a couple years, it has been nice to think of her more frequently these last weeks; because I live in a different city it’s almost like she’s been more in my life but nothing has changed…almost. But while starting to work on a paper today I needed to clear my desk…what to do with these photographs? Put them in an album? Create a collage? But them back in the storage box?
I looked through them again…Amy at my 18th birthday party, Amy and I smiling at each other at a party, Amy and I hugging in Off the Record, Amy and I plus both of our families gathered at my kitchen counter for cocktails, Amy with enormous glasses on that make her look like a cartoon, Amy making faces of humor, happiness, sassiness…as I see I begin to feel like I am in her company, the memories are 3-d in my mind’s eye, it was just yesterday that I was sitting next to my best friend and feeling the blessing of being with her. I sigh hard, breathe more deeply, notice how painful it feels as my chest and collarbones spread with an achy feeling, I start to sniffle, grief starts to shake me through me like an awkward twisting contraction.
Sometimes I feel guilty, after I tell someone I’m doing well, I’m happy, it’s a beautiful day, I’m at the farmer’s market, there are friends around and my life feels so good right now, and for a moment I wonder if that’s okay… less than a second later I know it’s fine, perhaps even a testament of sorts to life, to Amy, to me, to our friendship, and to love that I can be okay with both moments of profound sadness, and contentment, that both are perfect. I am both alive, participating with and enjoying all the beauty of my days, and also mourning slowly, meticulously, and deeply the loss of a good friend.
Putting the photographs away suddenly felt more permanent, like her life would then be over, as though the gesture held some finality or weight, as though the event would be over and life would then move forward from here. I’m not sure I’m ready for that but I also know that there are some things I have a choice about, and others I do not. Amy isn’t coming back, as days turn into weeks, and the rest of how that addition goes, she gets further and further away it seems, until her passing is more seamlessly another part of the landscape of my past rather than the elephant it is in the proverbial corner of my life right now. I feel like a person on a hiking trip who brings up the rear and makes sure everyone gets there and is now being asked to leave someone behind, and I’m going to do it…but…I…don’t want to. That I don’t have a choice about, I have to live here, in this moment, where Amy no longer is. But I can be okay with the fact that mourning Amy in one way or another may take many shapes over my lifetime, some joyous and others pained, and that this is, for better or worse, part and parcel of a life well lived.