Do you ever play the “A Year Ago” game? The one where you try to remember exactly what you were doing a year ago this moment? I play it all the time. I’m not sure what that says about me; maybe I like to make sure I’m growing, not stuck in a dead end routine or a boring rut, or worse, not maturing.
I played the A Year Ago game a lot this weekend. I couldn’t help it. A year ago was a big weekend. A year ago two days ago, I went to Kim’s house to drop off my deposit and first rent check. It was hilariously awkward. We were so brand new to each other. I was super excited to be moving in, to have found a new place to call home. She was, I think, a little bewildered by my exuberance and chattiness. But when I went to leave, I just grabbed her into a hug, totally catching her off guard. But then she smiled and told me how happy she was that I hugged her because people in Seattle just *don’t* hug, she said. And she missed hugs. Human contact is so necessary for happiness, she told me. So I hugged her again and told her how happy I was to be moving in.
Now, exactly a year later, I’m moving again. Yale and I spent the weekend house hunting, trying to find a two bedroom in our favorite Seattle neighborhood. We’re in a hurry. We need to get out of Kim’s condo.
I knew, when they started making plans to take her home to California, I would never see her again. I figured it would be a little sad to live in her house while she was away. But I thought I would have time. I thought she had time. I never expected to be in her condo after she died. That wasn’t my plan. But nothing about cancer allows you to make your own plan. Kim didn’t even get to choose where she died. She didn’t even make it home. They flew out on Saturday morning and she suffered an embolism on the flight, requiring an emergency landing in Sacramento. She died on Sunday, in a hospital. 3 weeks ago, she told me she never wanted to go back into a hospital. She told me she knew, if she went back into the hospital, she would die there. She was adamant about not dying in a hospital, almost angry. She was pleading with the cancer, I think, begging it to allow her this one final decision.
I hate cancer.
So. Kim died. And we are still living in her house. And it’s awful. It feels so hollow. Empty. Raw. Neither Yale nor I can rest there. We’ve both lost our voices, as though something is choking our throats. And our space isn’t our own. People keep coming in and out. Sorting through her belongings. Taking things. Leaving us feeling exposed and vulnerable, like we’re living in a shrine. I’ve experienced death before. I know the grieving process well. But to continue to exist in the space belonging to the person who died? It’s killing my good memories and delaying healing.
My only choice is to move forward. So we’re house hunting. Packing. Making plans to move to a new space. Whatever we find, we will make it a haven. It will be our home, full of love and laughter and a purple couch and pink chair. Hopefully in our favorite neighborhood, close to good friends, great restaurants, and ideal for night walks. And in two weeks, I am escaping to Colorado to spend a week with my family. This vacation could not have come at a more perfect time.
I’m hopeful. I’m confident we’ll find our home soon. And slowly, I will heal. I will figure out how to process the last 6 months, the enormity of watching someone die. Someday soon, the blog will return to lighter topics. Posts will have labels other than ‘cancer’. For now, I want to thank you all for listening. For your support and love and compassion. Your kind comments and thoughtful emails. I am so lucky to have such amazing readers and I love you all.
And who knows? Someday soon I’ll play A Year Ago again. And will look back at this post, this time. I have a good feeling about that day.
Thank you all.