I was lucky in that I got to say goodbye.
I went to the hospital and was horrified to see the dying person she had become. I smiled as big as I could, and told her how great her hair looked (they had been fiddling with it when I came in) and how glad I was to see her. I knew as I watched her struggling to talk, to stay awake, that I was speaking to her for the last time. It felt surreal, knowing I was choosing the last words I'd ever have with someone. There is a lot of importance in that, those last words. What do you do with them? How do you choose the LAST thing you ever say to someone?
We did her nails, and she whispered "Your makeup." Busted. I had come to visit without my makeup on. It was her pet peeve. She never left the house without full face makeup, and every birthday would give me a new makeup kit from Ulta and remind me "You have such a pretty face! Wear some make up so everyone can see!" She was like my Jewish mother, in fact she was a Jewish mother. You couldn't refuse her anything.
I laughed, and said "I know, I forgot my makeup. I PROMISE I won't forget anymore! Forgive me!"
She smiled, and her painkillers kicked in and she slept.
That's the last thing I ever said to her. I promised to wear my makeup. I've actually done a pretty good job of keeping that one. I wish I had said something more meaningful. I wish my last words had meant something but maybe to her they did. She was really big on me wearing my makeup.
I woke up the next day, after her funeral, and felt like I had put it behind me and was ready to move forward. It was a Monday and a pretty nice day. It was a busy day and a good day.
Shortly after noon, as I ate leftover tacos in the breakroom - I got a messsage saying goodbye forever. Goodbye, forever. Someone I loved a lot had decided they were done with this world. He sent a text message to a few of us, turned off his phone, and blew his brains out.
I know what the last thing I ever said to him (that he heard) was a response to the question "Will I get unemployment do you think?" I answered, "Yeah but you can't live on it. You'll find something. Don't worry."
Yeah, but you can't live on it.
Those words are burned in my brain. You can't live on it.
I said something else, but I don't think it was ever received. I said "STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING RIGHT NOW!"
You don't ever know what the last thing you're going to say to someone is going to be. I'm haunted by both stories, I wish I had said something different in both cases. Nothing would have changed in either case I don't believe. The real ego of it all though, is that those last words are just for me. I'd like to look on myself and say "Yay me I said something meaningful aren't I awesome?" Not like it matters to the dead the last damn thing you say.
I suspect the dead weren't thinking of me at all in either case, as they died.
Last words are haunting me. I'm lost thinking of them, even though they don't matter. Maybe it's just a stage of grief.
Tomorrow those of us who got a text to say goodbye, a short list of friends now bound together by an unspeakable day, we're going to spend some time together. We couldn't really think of anything to do that made sense so I think we're going to lunch or something. I just want to be with them, in a space with them, where we are safe from that day like a shield against the past. We all survived the grief of that day and the days that followed. We survived those moments when no one else would understand our rage, when it was too much to stand and we just went to lunch together and didn't say much of anything.
Today I spent most of my day holding my breath. 6/30/15 is coming. One year. He's been gone one year. I don't know how someone who was as much a part of my life as my elbow can be gone a year, much less forever. But that's the truth of it.
I didn't know how much a part of my life either person was, or the joy they brought me until they were gone. I wish, if nothing else, I had ever told them that.
...and nothing else matters.