I just thought of something: in a few days, last year won’t be last year anymore.
Good, some people might think. The more road between us and Then, the better.
When I hear M.—or myself, but especially M.—say, “when we had our loss last year…” it is a welcome jolt. In that moment, Zoey and Gus sound so much more recent than they often seem. It has been a whole twenty-one months since they died. And as if that fact were not enough, these months have not been the regular kind. Sorrow, infertility, the second pregnancy, the twins, new friends, their grief, our memory, and more have stretched these months sideways. Their new shapes eclipse and defy the simple, boxy, snapshot image of the calendar page.
I’m glad to think of it as not that long ago. I’m glad when I feel like we haven’t really journeyed that far. When I feel that M. and I, and Gus and Zoey not at opposite ends of a country. When they seem nearer—even if it means that for a moment, my sadness is, too.
This is why the words “last year” are so loaded to me now. Sometimes, when I hear M. use them—or myself, but especially M.—I see them capitalized with a little TM sign at the end. Or I see them as little gravity wells, tugging on all the other words, warping the fabric of the sentence. Last year infuses whatever we are saying with the thing we are not. We are saying, “We remember.” We are saying, “Don’t you forget that we have lost.” We are saying, “It’s not as far away as we know you think it is.” We are screaming in code.
And that’s the thing, really. Even more than a way to keep Gus and Zoey close, invoking last year feels like a way to jab everyone else. To provoke not only our sadness, but also theirs. Or their guilt. I don’t care which. As long as we keep our claim on their compassion, then frankly, either is fine.
Maybe this is weak. Maybe this is hostile. Maybe this is natural. I do not know what it is—except only that it is.
Maybe it is simply that I will seize any bridge to Gus and Zoey that I can. Any way to keep their shape—or the outline their absence—definite.
Last year sounds close enough to do that. Last year sounds so close, why, you could land there just by hopping a few steps to one side. But with “two years ago,” or anything beyond, the bridge dissolves to just a few beams. It is an extension of an extension, and where is the gravity in that? The solidity? Last year is familiar; it is land. Everything from there is uncharted. What is this thing supposed to be when it is no longer as nearby as last year? What are we?
So, it turns out, we traveled across a country after all. And now we are at the shore.
How does the new year (or any milestone) make you feel about your loss? How has your loss affected your experience of time? Please know that I'm wishing you and yours a gentle holiday season and much health and healing in the year ahead.