I finally held Dave’s death certificate on Monday night. It shouldn’t have been a shock, but it was.
It reminded me of the game my little brother loved:
Are you afraid of a monster this big? He’d ask, arms outstretched, as wide as he could reach.
No, I’d claim.
Are you afraid of a monster thiiiiis big? He’d ask, hands and arms only shoulder width apart now.
No, I’d say, doubling down on the claim.
Then are you afraid of a monster thiiiis big? His hands were less than a foot apart now, right in front of my face.
No, I’d say.
Are you sure? He’d goad. Hands still in front of my face, holding the shape of the smallest invisible monster he’d shown me yet.
Yes, I’d say– confident in the way that only a small child can be– and as soon as I staked my claim, his hands would clap together. Loud and fast.
And I’d flinch. Every time.
If you weren’t scared, he’d laugh, why’d you flinch?
I wasn’t scared of the big monster. I wasn’t scared of the medium-sized monster, or the small monster. I was shocked, by the sound and the fury of the space where a monster could have lived. Somewhere between the living of life with a little brother, and the dreaming of the monsters he created, was the waking up– and waking up hurts. It shocks the senses, burns the eyes, jumpstarts the heart.
I know my husband is dead.
A piece of state certified paper did not tell me anything that I didn’t already know. I won’t be binge-watching Aliens this year on the 26th, celebrating my anniversary with a homemade gift I can fit in my pocket. I won’t kiss my way into the new year. I won’t wake up to french pressed coffee unless I make it in my sleep. I won’t blog as I listen to rumblings about how restaurants putting lettuce or rice in a burrito is basically a scam. A world-accepted soul-sucking burrito scam.
The paper doesn’t know any of that. It only knows that he died. I already know that, more than anyone.
So why did I flinch?
I guess I was shocked.
Somewhere in the space where I know he no longer resides is the whole rest of my life. A dream and a life, full of motion and sound, and it clapped right in front of my face. Loud and fast. I woke up to it, and waking up hurts. It shocks the senses, burns the eyes, jumpstarts the heart.
Since that night, life has been a medley of legalities and followups. With the death certificate, I can now close accounts, contact social security, change patent and copyright ownership, take over control of his books, repair tax situations, claim benefits, resurrect accounts that were joint once upon a time, etc.
It is an expensive, time-consuming process.
I am okay, but annoyed at myself, for how often these things make me wince and flinch. It bothers me when the sadness rises in my throat and when the fear of filling his space paralyzes me.
I just want to be able to say that I am 100% happy, and mean it, but I can’t. It all reminds me of this dinosaur joke that floats around the internet:
(Image shows sad pink t-rex with standard short arms. Text reads: If you’re happy and you know it clap your… oh”)
When someone sends it my way, I always tell them– that’s okay, sometimes part of life is waiting for the next verse.
If you’re happy and you know it, stomp your feet– rawr! rawr!
That’s been my mantra this week. Wait for the second verse. Be patient. Be still. Enjoy the joy of everyone who can clap their hands, and let that joy fuel you.
I want to clap, too. I want to play. I want to be able to say that I am okay and fearless and happy. I want to be able to know it and show it.
But everything comes with time and patience, and I am certain a verse suited to me will come along one day. There’s a life filling up the blank spaces and it is a beautiful one. I will be there, with big strong dinosaur feet, ready to stomp.
Should I be sad just because I can’t claim to be totally happy yet?
Am I afraid of a life this big?
Am I afraid of a week this big?
Am I afraid of a day this big?
Yes. Yes. Yes.
But I’d rather flinch and be awake to the joy around me, than spend my time hiding from invisible things.
So go ahead.
Clap your hands.