I remain thankful for the act of creating circles.
I was in Target shopping for eyebrow tint when some innocuous thought of Chris entered my brain. I don’t even remember what it was, something random. In that moment, I had to get out of there. It wasn’t a panic attack. I remained calm as I checked out and walked to my car. But it was like a switch was flipped. In an instant, my entire being felt plunged into intense sadness.
It wasn’t just gloom. I felt almost immeasurable loneliness. I am blessed to have so many people who care for me, who understand how difficult this process is. I feel like a traitor even writing this because I am beyond lucky to have so much support.
But it has to feel helpless to see someone suffering and to not be able to offer up much besides “I’m so sorry. He was a great guy. It will get easier.” All true, all sincere. But I start to feel like a broken record. How many different ways can I say I love him, I miss him, I wish this hadn’t happened? I wish I could sing a different tune. Some days, I can. Not today.
I came home, and put together a Day of the Dead alter for Chris and my Dad. I initially imagined it as a way to connect with my sons and assist them with their concept of death. But they were running around the backyard, too engaged in a game of chase to want to assist in the ritual. Good for them. They are kids. They should be focused on sunshine and movement and feeling their toes in the grass.
I went ahead with preparing the alter, partially hoping it would bring some sort of catharsis, but wondering if it was really just a crutch in my despair.
The good thing about not being tied to a particular religion or cultural idea of death is that I was free to interpret this ritual in any way I wanted. I placed pictures of Chris and Dad on a small wooden box. I made sure they were smiling in the photographs. I want so much for them to be together and laughing if there happens to be some sort of afterlife. I placed a few traditional things- flowers, candles, coins, water, and food offerings. I also placed things specific to my family- a rooster, my brothers ring, a couple of shots of whiskey.
I rang a meditation gong. The shopkeeper I procured it from told me that as I hit the gong, my worries would float away with the sound. I talked with Chris and my dad for a bit. I took my own whiskey shot in their honor, and kissed each of their pictures.
A friend messaged me earlier in the day, and I said I was having a very rough afternoon. He emailed me back, and sent me this song, with the words “It feels good to cry to this.”
The song is more than ten minutes long, a slow burn as my husband is fond of saying. After the first few lines, I thought is this guy going to sing a whole song about watching a movie? But something compelled me to keep listening.
The lyrics began to take a melancholic twist, as the singer admits “from my earliest memories I was a melancholic kid. When anything at all close to me in the world died, to my heart, forever, it would be tied.” I started to think maybe I should turn this off. I’m already feeling fucking horrible. But I kept listening.
I started painting circles on a rock. When I am feeling more fancy, I call it a mandala. But really, it is just painting on a rock. Circles. I paint circles because I like the shape. It is soothing to me to have something to do that keeps my hands busy but requires no real concentration. So I craft circle after circle and listen to this song.
There is a line, “Then I went to my bedroom, and I lay down. And in my tears and in the heaviness of everything I drowned.” That was it. That was the reason I needed to listen to this song. Someone understood how horrible this thing was, and wasn’t scared to feel it, and I was allowed to exist in that space and just be uncontrollably sad. It did feel good to cry to it.
I hurt in so many ways- for Allie who lost a father, for my family who had to let go of a son and brother, for his friends, for the music community. Today, painting those circles, I just allowed it to hurt for me. Selfishly. A bit immature. All the stupid stuff I miss and will continue to long for- watching TV shows with him, getting random texts about bands, the cackle he’d let out when he was giving me shit.
And all the not so stupid stuff. I’m hopefully going to grow into an old lady, and he’s not going to be there with me to laugh our way through it. My kids will only vaguely remember what a great uncle he was. Sometimes my heart aches so much I can’t even fathom the complexity of emotion I need to master to make it past this tragedy. I miss him. I fucking miss him. How do I not miss him so much?
I know, it takes time and all that. Tomorrow is another day, and I’ll wake up and feel better until the time comes when I don’t. And then I’ll be back to painting rocks, with no plan on where to put them or what to do with them. Just painting circles for the sake of keeping my sanity, or at least having something to do with my hands.