Should have been

Today, August 2, 2013, Susan should have been 56 years old. Instead, she died of cancer seven months and one day ago.

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Massager Susan with the crazy hair

By next month, she might have told you she was 57. She always aged herself a year, almost a year in advance. Sometimes she thought she was actually turning a year older than she actually was. And yet she was so young. Too young to die. She was still young enough to be a pied piper whom any kids within a ten foot radius would follow. She was still young enough to mold her hair into a crazy flip and appear as Massager Susan, with a technique “inspired by the Japanese ‘Tofu’ Style.”

I am seething. I am furious. It is unbelievable. It is absurd. So full of life and love. She cannot be dead.

 So I’m angry. Does that lead to acceptance? I accept what I can’t change in ten steps? Five stages, intertwined, that lead to acceptance? What’s acceptance? Is there any choice? Not really. I wave my hand before my eyes: she’s still not here. I go to bed and get up every day: she’s not in our room. I accept the empirical evidence.
Nonetheless: it is absurd; it is unbelievable. She cannot be dead.

I think it will be better to celebrate her birthday than her death day. I’m sure I won’t be able to avoid thinking about those last months, weeks, and days, especially those last days. But I will force myself to remember the vibrancy with which she lived life.

List of services Susan pretended were available to her massage clients.
List of services she pretended were available to her massage clients

Rather than her illness, I hope I will remember her laughing with glee as our two year old stood waiting silently, wishing so hard to be found that he exploded when the moment of being found finally came and she swooped him into her arms. I will remember her sending me flowers at work on my first day at a new job. I will remember “I’m a frayed knot” every time I or anyone else says it, even though I can’t remember the whole joke.

As I just wrote “a frayed knot,” I smiled. As I smile, my desire to bust through a wall in rage at death dissipates

I remember her naming her new mountain bike Steibokli (little mountain goat, specifically an Ibex) and her pride at making it up rough slopes in the Lynn Fells. I remember the day we closed on our house, walked in, gloried for a few moments in amazement that it was ours, and immediately began tearing off the rug on the stairs. Only after that did we go to the hardware store to buy a garbage can to put it in.

As I remember how eager and silly we were, I begin to breathe and to remember more.

Here we are, having hiked up my first Swiss alp, standing with her in rare silence (she could be talkative), looking up and down the valleys and at the mountains beyond, sharing in the pure awe. Next, I relive the minute when we were in the living room, heard a baby’s cry, and realized “waah..waah..waah” was coming from upstairs . . . and the baby was ours. The house was no longer ours as a couple, it was ours as a family.

The grief leaves me battered and exhausted. I wish those fierce washes of pain would leave me. But if they left, maybe she would too.

I would rather remember.
My dear Susan.

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Should have been by Kim Brookes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at Permission to Use.