This would be a prayer, if I prayed.
Let me be not alone. Let the broken parts be whole.
Let me be rocks and water.
Let me be not alone. As if Job was not still alone in the end. As if grief were a pit you could climb out of. As if learning what you can survive didn’t come with a terrible price, as if it did not wake a terrible pride that will forever stir the dust of old memories with its pacing.
Let the broken parts be whole. As if healing did not leave scars. As if mended parts could ever forget how easily they were broken. As if a day could pass without running fingertips along the fault lines. As if nerves grew back.
As if faith did not sometimes say dear God take my faith away. It is making me go on. I can’t go on.
I could say, “He would have been thirty.” I know better. If it hadn’t been that day it would have been another. The next year, or the year after that. Mental illness can be terminal. We don’t like to say it but it’s true.
I don’t mean to think of him. It takes so little. A shock of red hair, a crooked smile behind a beard, a voice made clear from years of speaking on stage. Sometimes it’s nothing to do with him at all–I read an essay about adding to the boundaries of human knowledge, wonder what he would say about the boundaries of the arts. There’s still the hike of anticipation for conversations that are never going to happen. Thinking “he would love this,” or “he would be so disappointed.” Would, not would have. After long enough you’d think that impulse would stop. I wish it would. I’m terrified it will.
I’m so afraid of losing what little I have left of him. The exact hazel of his eyes, the cadence of his voice. What if I forget the names he chose for daughters he never had? If I lose the slow, serious talks about his church, his faith, his god? The mistakes we didn’t make (I wish we had). The two a.m. shouting matches, the hurt, how easy it was for both of us to forgive.
The one letter I keep coming back to. “You’ve forgiven me more times than God.” Not an apology, not thanks, just that. “You’ve forgiven me more times than God.”
For him, I believed in always. Because of him, I don’t.
But none of it matters and it was so, so long ago. And I haven’t let it go.
Let me be rocks. Let me be water.