November At The Beach

November at the beach. Swimming with dolphins. Driving on Christmas Morning. They are the pictures of our life and they wallpaper the hallway to our bedrooms – just the way I want it. Replaced by glass, frames and smiles, our bare walls tell the story of the lessons that Elena left behind and the memories that Gracie still creates today.

Last week I was asked how we survive after losing Elena. I didn’t have an answer. In truth, even we still don’t know. As I wander through the house I see the pictures she painted, the coffee cup she created, the coasters bearing her smile and the book to capture her lessons for Gracie. I have a dog she renamed, a charity she inspired and friends I never would have met if it weren’t for Elena. Still, I don’t have her. And in the end, I would give it all up just for another minute with her.

Some days are easier; most are still hard. The scar from her loss will always remain, but thankfully our mind now returns to the happier memories instead of the sad. But sometimes even these memories bring the most tears. I force myself to relive it all, up until the very last minute as I carried her to the ambulance after her passing, afraid that if I don’t I’ll forget something as the years pass. There never was a smiling picture to capture that moment – just a feeling that I never want to relive. Still, I pick, like a scab that you just can’t let go, watching the blood pulse once again from the scar. And somehow it makes it feel better if only because it gives you control over the very last memory.

I think the answer to how we survive is that we just live. In the end, I think it’s the same answer everyone has after losing a loved one. With Gracie we have no choice. When we awake we count yet another day without Elena. When we say goodnight we give thanks for another day with Gracie. And so it begins again – starting with the memories and ending with new ones. I guess that’s the promise of life and the lesson of religion. Each day is a new opportunity as we are reborn anew.

This week Gracie is with her grandparents. I hate these weeks. Ignoring the obvious, both Brooke and I run away to work to avoid the memories that we share but dare don’t repeat to each other. This week is also the week that I realized that Gracie is now older than Elena ever was when we lost her. Elena’s hand-me-downs no longer fit, her personality has matured and I, as a father, must now learn all over again. Time for new memories, new experiences and new challenges. Time for a rebirth – for all of us.

As I walk to our bedroom tonight, only half of the walls are covered. The other half remain bare, as testament to still what remains. In many ways they are Gracie’s memories now, but they are also lessons from Elena. Without her I doubt there would be pictures at all, instead remaining undeveloped in a hard drive or never taken at all. And for this lesson I am thankful.

This is how you survive. You remember, you learn and you live. And I am learning myself only now.

Comments are closed.