Four years ago on this date, I was flying down to Florida upon the news of her suicide.
I realized that this as I drove the highway on my way back home from the shore yesterday. It is curious to me how a mind that wishes to forget might also, in equal part, wish to remember. I straddle those two opposing impulses now as ever. The date is unforgettable for me, and yet I had managed to suppress full awareness of its arrival until I was alone- no doubt an unconscious effort to allow myself emotional space for as long as possible, before the thought intruded in the eleventh hour. It seems it is always then that such memories announce themselves, at least this is so for me. Quietly, they make their approach, settling into my consciousness with the sudden fury of total recognition.
Since I brought her home with me, her ashes have resided in a large red foot locker along with her personal effects.I found the red trunk at the Container Store and purchased it, thinking to myself that the concurrently cheerful and macabre suggestion of its color would make her smile. She loved black humor, and the container’s appearance and its designated purpose would certainly suit her sense of humor. In this house, she rests by the side of the stairs in my basement. I could not bring myself to set her urn on a shelf upstairs where the occasional glance might bring the memory of that terrible day and the days that followed flooding back in full force every time. Still, the need to remember is undeniable. The vision of her blood on the tile by the sliding door is as indelible and vivid today as when it was when I entered the house four years ago. I stood there transfixed, unable to look away from the crimson mark that was all that was left of her. I had walked into a time machine – the house still as she’d left it when she abandoned this life only forty eight hours before.
In her bedroom, a carelessly tossed brassiere lay next to a toy stuffed lemur on the bedside table, the juxtaposition a sad reminder of the frightened child inside the woman. Beside that was the place where her head had lain on her last night of sleep. The bed was rumpled, its covers thrown back by her hand the last time she’d risen to face the day. Tin foil was taped pell mell to the sliding doors and plate glass in her room, blocking virtually all of the natural light.
This morning, my own mind fairly whirs with those memories. They are a kind of poison to my soul now, but even so, I cannot regret going there when I did. I needed to do it. I needed the closure it also provided. And I needed to take those memories with me, to hold them close, as I had dearly wished to have had the opportunity to hold her close, one last time.
And so I do, in my way, cherishing her with the only bits of her I’ve been given- a memory complete- not only of her difficult life, but in what she left behind for me to find at the end.
And so I go forward, both rueing the memory and holding it sacred, never quite able to bury her. She is mine now, tucked into my heart, safe and surrounded by the love she never quite felt in life.
My love could not spare her.
My love cannot spare me.