A year ago right around now, Kim was dying. She was finally out of the hospital, back in her bed in our house, hooked up to the oxygen machine that whirred round the clock, snaked its way into our lives and sucked her life away.
I didn’t feel anything.
Her friends visited in droves, saying goodbye without acknowledging the magnitude of the goodbye they were saying. Our house was a steady and constant hub of activity, people coming and going, everyone talking talking talking at Kim, who was slipping away into solitude and silence. Some people cried at her. Others shared memory after memory until I thought I would scream for her because it never seemed to end.
I just wanted everyone to shut up.
Then, when the house was empty and quiet, I would climb onto her bed and link my pinky with hers. I would respect the silence and pass the time watching her chest rise and fall, her breaths shaky and raspy and labored, wondering with detached interest, if she died right then, would I feel her body go still?
I was a robot.
Today I am not a robot. A year and the hardest work I’ve ever done on myself later, I’m officially not a robot. And it’s awful. Because everything I avoided feeling at this time last year is surfacing now, all at once, and all out of my control. During her illness and after her death, I think I cried maybe 5 times. Lately, I cry a little bit every day, almost like my sorrow is seeping from my eyes a little at a time. On Saturday, I cried so much and so hard I felt as though I was no longer human. I became the sounds I was making, a horrible keening wail.
I miss my friend.
This is the Red Zone, the time between now and who knows when. The anniversary of her death is July 3rd. The next few weeks are filled with hidden and heartbreaking memories, a minefield I do not know how to navigate. The anger I thought I felt toward her friends? Jealousy because they had more memories than she and I would get the chance to make. The way I kept silent at her bedside? Fear because I didn’t have the words to say goodbye. The detached way I viewed her decline? Avoidance of the anger I felt toward her for withdrawing to do what we all must do alone.
Being a robot allowed me to survive those days. But those feelings didn’t disappear and I’ll have to deal with them sooner or later. So I’m doing it now, giving myself over to the grief I’ve avoided for so long, experiencing her death because I can’t go on forever ignoring the profound effect her loss has had on my life.
Because I am me, my grandfather’s granddaughter, a Moore through and through, I have a plan for surviving in the Red Zone. There will be time spent away from Seattle, creating new and ridiculously happy memories while I cheer myself hoarse as iWill becomes an Ironman. There’s an extra grief-counseling session scheduled for July 2nd, the day Kim’s family attempted to fly her home to die, only to have her suffer an embolism on the plane and end up on life support in an unfamiliar hospital. And I’ve circled the wagons for July 3rd. Keridwyn and Erin are on standby, ready for anything because we don’t know what I’ll need to do that day. They are prepared to leap in and pull me out of the house or sit with me in the dark. I have no words for how much they mean to me and how humbled I am by their willingness and determination to wade into the trenches of this with me.
And then on the 13th, 10 days after the anniversary of her death, there will be a small toast of tequila and pineapple, in honor of Kim. Beautiful, wonderful, hilarious Kim, who would join me in spontaneous Chemo-Dance-Parties, who wore the novelty band-aids I bought her because she knew they made *me* feel better, and who cooked extra every time she made dinner because she got tired of seeing me eat cereal 4 nights in a row.
So the Red Zone is happening. And maybe it isn’t going to be pretty. I feel weak and stupid for crying so much. I feel a little ashamed at myself because get over it, already. I feel like nobody is ever going to trust me to share their burden again because look at how I let it tear me to pieces once. I feel raw and exposed, like the world can see the shreds in my heart.
But the point is, I feel.