Saturday, January 12, 2019

I close my eyes and go back in time. . .

Dear Aaron,

Sometimes I'm afraid of forgetting... Forgetting the sound of your voice (thank God for recordings). Forgetting the real you—afraid of making an idol out of who I think you were. I've been afraid of forgetting what it feels like to bleed; not that I enjoy the wound, but the pain means I'm not numb.

The last few weeks have been strange. I've been happy and hollow. Lonely and sad for other reasons. I've felt distance between myself and reality. I've been angry. I've been scared. And I've been running from what I want, though I don't know why. I felt like I didn't have permission to grieve. Like I was avoiding it until I was in a safe place. But to avoid grief means it takes time to reacquaint myself with that beast who, it turns out, is also my friend.

In some ways, I feel like I'm near you in the grief. And it comes whirling in when I am alone in my kitchen, listening uninterruptedly to Switchfoot. When I hear someone in a film give voice to what it feels like to lose a belov├ęd. The emptiness I've been holding at bay rushes in like a rising tide, sweeping over a floodgate. The words awaken something inside of me. . .

Here's to the twilight Here's to the memories These are my souvenirs My mental pictures of everything Here's to the late nights Here's to the firelight These are my souvenirs My souvenirs

How did they know? About twilight being the time when poetry sings the clearest? How did they know about the mental images of the Lodge? Of several of us piled on the couches by the wood stove, late into the night, listening to Dave read about the Old Squire? How did they know about the sharp, brief images of the van ride to Denver, your lanky self on the floor, drinking in all the conversations? Of the crisp picture of you on the trail at the Continental Divide? So many memories have faded, blurred, and been lost forever. . . But the snatches and moments I have still are like leaves of silver and gold.
I close my eyes and go back in time I can see you're smiling, you're so alive We were so young, we had no fear We were so young, we had no idea That life was just happening Life was just happening

This is the part that makes me weep. . . When I close my eyes and go back in time, I of course see you smiling. It hurts that you were so alive then but aren't now. But no. What am I saying? Of course you are so much more alive now. . . How can you be so alive and yet I feel so hollow?
Here's to your bright eyes Shining like fireflies These are my souvenirs The memory of a lifetime We were wide-eyed with everything Everything around us We were enlightened by everything Everything

Remember being both bright-eyed and wide-eyed? Remember the unquenchable thirst for good books? It was like Semester was a salt you could never get out of your mouth—giving savour to everything, and simultaneously bequeathing an unending thirst. And your firefly-eyes lit up at the prospect of those pages yet to be read and known and loved.
So I close my eyes and go back in time I can see you smiling, you're so alive I close my eyes and go back in time You were just a child then, and so was I We were so young, we had no fear We were so young, we had no idea That nothing lasts forever Nothing lasts forever Nothing lasts You and me together Were always now or never

Nothing lasts forever. . .even when it feels like it always will. Like we will always be friends, of course. What could possibly change enough to change that? And in some ways, that is true. Our Semester class will always be family, no matter how many years go by without communication. But some things change the core of who we are. Like Semester changed the core and trajectory of our lives, so does mental illness—so does death.

I wish I had known it was 'now or never' and visited you in Rhode Island. I wish I had made those memories with you that haunt the hollows in the woods and the corners of your parents' home. But when do we know in the moment that it is now or never? We don't, and we take for granted the life we are given. Can you hear me? I close my eyes and go back in time I can see you smiling, you're so alive I close my eyes and go back in time You were wide-eyed, you were wide-eyed
We were so young, we had no fear We were so young, we had just begun A song we knew, but we never sang It burned like fire inside our lungs And life was just happening
(and nothing lasts, nothing lasts forever) I wouldn't trade it for anything My souvenirs

Can you hear me when I talk to you? When I whisper through my tears, How could you? How could you do that to your family? How could you leave me? I think I'm really asking why the brokenness of the world is so particular, devouring my friend. How could something that happens to other people happen to you—and consequently to me? How could someone so alive die?

Remember being so young—facing your fears by driving nearly a thousand miles; by jumping on a table and reciting poetry? Remember the songs you sang to me in ink on envelopes? Remember the dreams and desires that burned inside like fire? I do. These are the souvenirs of our youth. Then you put me in a place to step from youth into depth—into both my own smallness and the largeness of the world. You gifted me dear memories. Sweet souvenirs. Deepest friends. Your very self.

Can you hear me? Because I want to sing thank you. . .with the rest of my life.


Souvenirs by Jon and Tim Foreman