Did any of it actually happen? The days surrounding Dave's death seem so incredibly unreal. I feel elementally different than the person I was before he got sick. That world and this world seem separated by a thousand miles and epochs of time.
And still there are moments when it all rushes at me. A smell or a sound. Medical terms like blood oxygen levels or cardiac arrest. The sight of his handwriting. A picture I haven't seen since he was alive. His wallet.
I know that person was me. I know that was me kneeling on the hard floor, forcing myself to read as much of his autopsy as I could until the nausea and fear overwhelmed me. I know that was me, as I slid to lie face down on the floor boards, unsure of how I'd survive in a world in which I had to read my love's autopsy.
I know that was me, walking into a room full of people who were together that morning to say goodbye to my husband, my best friend. I know that was me, watching a slideshow of his life with hundreds of other people, thinking "he is dead and gone".
I know that was me, taking off the funeral outfit and planning to burn it later, knowing I'd never want to see it again.
I know that was me, struggling to stand up in the shower, eat a bite of food and sleep for more than a minute at a time. I know that was me screaming and thrashing when I'd wake up and remember what had happened. I know that was me.
But it wasn't me. The me I am now. The me I am now knows too much. She knows death intimately and understands things like autopsy reports, myocarditis, funeral homes and memorials. She knows how to get nutrients into a body too despondent to eat. She knows too much about prescription drugs and alcohol and how they can sometimes be the way through to a time when they're no longer necessary.
Just a year ago, even, I was a different me. I wasn't sleeping or eating well and I was riding the raw-nerve-ending waves of anxiety most hours of most days. The me I am now resembles a me I hoped I'd be again.
Never the same. Never that other me, no. But a functional, present, positive me. A person who could face a day with at least curiosity instead of dread, sometimes even excitement. A person who could want a future again, even if it's missing the person I thought I couldn't live without. A person who has a life to live.
A person who can finally, finally look up from the sucking pain and darkness of grief and see the sunset, the waterfall, the stars, the moon, the look of love in another man's eyes. Who can see all of these things again, finally. Who can stand up straight again now that the weight of the grief is small enough to carry around while experiencing life.