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When You Forget That They’re Dead

Yesterday, I was sitting at my desk; head down and plowing through both the literal and figurative piles of tasks before me, when I took a quick pause to breathe and clear my head.

“I think I’ll call dad.” I thought to myself, yet before the sentence had even reached its conclusion—everything stopped abruptly and I felt sick to my stomach.

“Damnit.” I answered back out loud and sighed heavily. Tears clouded my eyes until they spilled out onto the papers below me.

It had happened again.

My father’s been dead for almost five years now, and this still happens more times than I care to admit: when I’m busy or stressed out or angry, and that heart muscle memory kicks in and prompts me to reach for the phone—and then I remember.

For a millisecond, it’s as if I forget that he is gone.

It’s sounds ridiculous that I could “not remember,” this even for a millisecond; that I could possibly forget that one of the people most dear to me in this life isn’t here anymore, but if you’ve ever lost someone you understand.

You know the way grief sneaks up on you in the middle of an ordinary moment, when you least expect it to arrive—and it levels you.

You know that reflexive move to call them or hear their voices or to check in to see how their day is going, and what a kick in the gut you get when you remember you can’t.

You know the fresh wave of grief that comes in the wake of the impossible “mistake” of your memory loss, and it’s as if they’re dying again for the first time.

As with all grieving, it’s strangely those excruciating moments that somehow console you, too. They hurt like hell, and then they comfort.

As painful as it is to be surprised by grief, it’s a reminder of just how deeply connected your lives were, just how much a part of the daily rhythm of your days they had been, and just how beautiful it was just to be loved by them in a million nondescript seconds.

As you look back, it’s those middle of the day phone calls, those surprise drop-in visits, those quick caresses to your hair, those seemingly meaningless conversations that become the most meaningful.

Maybe that’s why you forget the people you love are gone. Maybe it’s a gift to remind you of how it felt when they were here, when you were together, when nothing was out of reach.

I sat there at my desk crying, first in anger, then in gratitude. I had someone worth missing.

I know this is going to happen again. For as long as I live, whenever I have exciting news to share or when I’m frustrated or simply when I’m in the middle of an ordinary day, I know I’m going to forget and I’m going to reach for the phone.

I’ll catch myself forgetting and I’ll wonder why it still happens.

Again I’ll feel stupid and tears will cloud my eyes.

And just like that, I’ll remember how much I miss him.

And in a way that no words can measure, we’ll be together again.





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