it's the first time in my life that i have not gone there for the summer

A Funeral for my Love

Since we didn’t have a happy ending,
I’ll write a sad one.
This heartbreak is unlike the others.
My therapist in college would have called it
“Complicated Grief.”
Heartbreak compounded by death grief.
I watched a classmate go through it once.
But unlike the boy I went to school with,
you aren’t actually dead.

Turn the story on its head.
What if you had died?
It feels like you did.
The person I knew, the person I loved
no longer exists.

I lost you a long time ago.
Those warm summer days
you started to change.
Slowly at first, the life left you.
I saw the light fade from your eyes.
First in pictures, then in person.
By the cooling of the fall you had thrown away so many of the traits that I loved about you.
Your passion was gone.
You became aggressive.
All of your interests and your personality changed.

I saw it then.
I tried to shake it out of you.
I tried to love it out of you.
But I could never make you into someone you didn’t want to be.

Now I understand why some parents have funerals for children that haven’t died.
Mourning the loss of a daughter.
Instead of celebrating the birth of their new son.
They say funerals are for the living.
I’ve been to enough of them to know.
Somehow, I think it’s the only grief I know how to process completely.
By the time I was 10 I had lost so many people including my great grandparents, my second mom figure, and a brother.

I think I’ll plan you a funeral.
I’d feel better to know that you’d had a proper service.
I once loved someone who told me they’d plan mine.
It was a sweet sentiment, I promise.

This will be a service just for me.
You’ll be there in your best suit, looking like a peaceful stranger.
I’ll give a speech about some tragic train accident in November or an unfortunate drowning incident involving an overactive river current in August.
Nostalgically, I’ll go through all of the memories we shared.
So many.
Barely any, really.
What a shame you had to leave so soon.
We promised each other forever.

Then I’ll close up your casket,
and lower you into the ground.
I’ll remember you as you were.
For a little while I’ll visit your grave regularly with flowers.
You won’t see them or me.
You’re dead, remember?
With enough time, my life will go on.
Just like it always has.
Eventually I’ll stop visiting.
I’ll no longer wish to grow old watching you rot away underneath a stone that never changes.
I’ll no longer need your permission to be happy.

After several trips, the last where I returned home with a bad cold, nearly a month had gone by since I last went to yoga. I’d been going so frequently before then, consistently through the summer when it was hot and all I really wanted to do was lie on my back with iced coffee drinks. Last night was my first time back at practice and it was…frustrating. Pushups (chaturanga) felt sticky and strenuous and strange. My thighs and knees shook-shivered during warrior poses. My balance was only pretty good at being unbalanced.

One of the things I like most about this practice is its focus on simply being where you are, acknowledging that every day feels different. Change is inevitable always. That is a huge comfort. It’s also a major struggle. That’s not a thing that comes naturally for me. I’m more accustomed to being two steps ahead, planned and mapped out, set, having a backpack full of expectations. 

Last night I’d wanted to pick up right where I left off a month ago. I knew going in that it probably wouldn’t feel that way. I was nervous that I would make it through; I intentionally set up my mat in the back corner of the room. It’s an advanced class, with modifications for when you need them. I had gotten used to feeling strong, powering through. I like that I could modify to what I need but my ego doesn’t want to have to modify. So that’s where the frustration springs. I was fighting against being where I was, and that only ever creates more distress. 

I went home tired and I felt a little gloomy as the sun went down and the house got dark just me and the dog in it all alone. I thought about a lot of these things. I took my own photo to record the dark moment in passing. And then I let it go. A first day back is going to feel like a first day back. There are times like this. There will be.