Thursday, November 24, 2011
Never Leave a Friend Behind: In Memory of Larry Healy
It's been exactly ten Thanksgivings now, since I found your lifeless body. I was so freaking mad at you: I told you this would happen!!!
Since then, I can't make it through Thanksgiving without re-living that day. Even after all these years. I can still feel the icy air on my skin as I walk into the house, knowing full well what I will find; and I can still feel the frantic fear that our dogs are feeling, all cooped up in there with your cold empty corpse, not knowing what to do. Every year I wait by your side for the paramedics to come and tell me what I already know: "He's dead." Every year I call your mother and tell her what has happened. She's a woman, like I am, and so she already knows, when she picks up the phone, what I'm going to say. She's known at some level ever since you didn't show up for Thanksgiving dinner. Every year, I sit with her again on the side of the road, while they put you in a bag and take you away. They won't let us touch you, because they have decided your death is "suspicious" and they don't want us to compromise the evidence. They won't let me anywhere near you, because even after eleven years of togetherness I'm still not your wife, and so I don't have the right to say a proper goodbye. I can only stand off to the side, helpless and alone, as they take you away.
My life ended that day.
But then, my life also began that day. I started to sing as a way to survive the relentless grieving. After a while, I began to notice that my heart was also learning to sing, and I began to find joy again. Real joy. I learned to be grateful for all of it, even the really sucky parts. Even for losing you. Even for the death of our baby daughter, and our dogs, and our cat, Pearl. Our whole family died in just a few short years, and I was the sole survivor. Yet, through all of that, maybe even because of it, I've learned to be grateful, and that has made all the difference. Out of my deepest sorrow has come more joy and beauty than I ever dreamed was possible.
Thank you, Larry. For all of it.
I miss you, old friend, and some days I still cry. I want you to know that I'm OK, even though I'm pretty sure I may never be able to give my heart to anyone else as completely as I gave it to you. That makes me a little sad sometimes, and every now and then I think it might be nice to let someone love me again. But it's very likely that I won't let that happen. Instead, I make it a point to choose men who I'm certain won't try to get too close. I'm not sure I could survive another loss of this magnitude. I don't even want to find out.
I've learned to find contentment in other ways: walking in the woods, singing a lot, writing a little, and learning to love it all with everything I've got. You never know, do you, if this might be your last day on earth. As you once wrote in one of your poems: "I get my happiness one teardrop at a time."
I'll see you again, eventually, although I'm no longer in a hurry for that day to come.
Until then ...