The Biggest Lie

When we lose someone dear to us, it’s as if we get lost in the empty space they leave behind.  The emotions are too much, and we lose ourselves in that emptiness, unable to function fully in those first few days or weeks or months, running on autopilot through our daily obligations because we must, but we aren’t there.  We’re locked in an empty space with their ghosts and our memories.  Some break down into emotional wrecks, clutch desperately at the strength of others in order to maintain their own balance.  Others harden their heart, embrace the cold dark of that empty space alone and cry silent tears.  The pain burns through regardless, flaring to white hot without warning, and we can only wish in vain for it to ease.  We cling to the platitudes crooned in our direction, “It will get easier,” we’re told.  “Time and distance heals all wounds,” they say.   We listen, and we wish and we hope, and we forget.  We sacrifice our memories, each one a crystal tear with which we build our path out of the dark.  We lie, and tell those who worry that we are fine, now, the pain but a memory left behind with all the others.  We lie, because it is expected, because to hold that pain close beyond an acceptable grieving period marks us as damaged good, candidates for medication and sedation, flawed in some way because we still feel.  Eventually, we convince ourselves of the truth of the lie, and the hurt fades away to naught but the barest ache.

Time flies. Time dies. We heal.  We lie.

We lie because we know.   We know, know we can’t guard against it, that knife that will fly, white hot and glinting, from that empty space, its sharp point intent on burying itself deep in our hearts.  Not forgotten, not forgiven, it reminds us, but too much time has passed and we cannot break as we once did when the loss was fresh and new.  So we continue through our day, our week, our month, with that white-hot knife burning in our heart, until we’ve strength to pull it free, examine it, see what lost memory it was formed from, what we are being forced to face and we remember.   In remembering, we fall.  We fall, and we cry, and we die just a little more than we did the day we first lost.  We fight, and we curse, and we rail because of the lie, the lie we were told and the lie we lived, that terrible, beautiful lie which promised us that with time it becomes less, that with forgetting we would heal.    The biggest lie, the worst lie, the lie we embrace with all of our being because of the succor it offers.

Time flies. Time dies. We heal.  We lie.

My mother died unexpectedly in late August of 1995.  She was forty-five.  In a few weeks, I will be forty.  I’ve been without my mother for twenty years.  She did not see me fulfill my literal life-long dream of an art degree.  She did not see me or my sister get married, or see us get divorced.  I stood in her stead at the birth of my nephew, breaking laws of man and physics to get from Memphis, TN to Dothan, AL before he was born.

Don’t ask me the day she died. Don’t ask me the date of her birth, either.  Dates I forget, because dates make me remember more clearly.  Dates are the white hot knife from the empty space left by her passing, reminding me, over and over again, that it never gets any easier.  It is not as if I don’t know the dates, for I do.  However, I must live my life, go about my day, and I cannot afford to break down for days at a time each year.  Days like today, though, weeks like this, when I am reminded of everything I no longer have, they weigh upon me more heavily than any geasa. My mother was my best friend, my confidant. We went through the fire together and brought each other out of it, burned and scarred, but alive.  Yet I have lived the last twenty years knowing the last words she heard from me were of anger, not of love.  Lived them knowing that I was, most likely, the last person she talked to before she died, as well.

Time flies.

Time dies.

We heal.

We lie.

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