I heard somewhere that all of our cells regenerate every 7 years. I think fellow widow Nora McInerny may have said it. [I did a quick Google search on this fact and spent about 3 minutes looking into it…seems at least halfway legit? I know you’d scoff at this and then explain cell regeneration to me enthusiastically for half an hour] Nonetheless, the fact that I would have all new cells in 7 years made me feel anxious and sad. I don’t want brand new cells. I want the cells that knew you, that touched you, and that are connected to you forever. I don’t want to have cells that haven’t known you. I want to keep my old cells!
I find myself grasping onto every fiber of you, anything I can find or remember. I worry about forgetting you. I have worried about it since probably the week that you died. I hear your voice in my head but wonder if it will ever fade. I have a few videos where I can hear it and remember it again if I need to. Sometimes I watch them just to boost my memory of how you sounded. I am afraid that the world will forget you, but I know if I am in the world I won’t let it happen. But, what if I forget things and then I am not able to keep your memory alive in others? When I start to feel anxious about remembering how you sound, smell, or facial expressions, I can usually conjure up a snippet of you in my mind. I worry there will be a time where it is more challenging to experience a vivid memory or image of you. It’s an anxiety that is constantly weighing on me.
Over time, I have realized that it really is not possible to forget you. This has eased some of the anxiety. You are forever in every part of me, even if it isn’t in my cells. How could I forget you when you are part of me? How could I move on when you are in everything that I do? I am who I am because you lived and because you loved me. There are so many things, big and small, that have shaped who I am and how I experience the world and you are the reason behind them.
You taught me to question everything and not take things at face value. I cannot express how formative your life was for me and my perspective of this world. I am more critical of what I hear and see and I seek evidence and support for any theory or claim. You showed me this, often during debates that I would lose. I hope my COVID-19 and racial injustice advocacy is making you proud. You were always so good at debating things because you never got emotional. That part I am still working on. Boy, oh boy, you would definitely tell me I need to just delete Facebook right now to save my mental health. I am working on it, ok?
When I get in the car, you are there on my radio. In high school, you made me listen to country music. I would roll my eyes when you’d turn to a Brad Paisley song or you’d sing along to Keith Urban. Eventually, I knew all the words to the songs, too. Of course, a couple of years later you abandoned country music, but I never did. The roles reversed and for the next 9 years, you mocked my country music fandom. You also come through my car speakers in the form of NPR. I loved bitching about the seasonal fund-drives with you. A few days after you died, the spring fund-drive began. I had this dark joke (that I think I only told myself…hopefully…until now) that you died on that day so that you wouldn’t have to hear the annoying interruptions. Your love of NPR is rooted in me now. I am so much more informed about this world because of you in my life. And, if I am not listening to the radio, I am likely listening to a podcast. You were the king of podcasts! Though you mostly listened to incredibly boring podcasts about WWI, you are the one who got me hooked on the Serial true-crime podcast and I have not stopped podcasting since.
As far as the Internet goes, I am still trying to figure out this Reddit thing that you introduced to me. When I read through some of the threads I can hear your humor and I can hear you laughing or telling me about it. You would be all over the r/Atlanta daily COVID-19 thread. And, of course, you taught me the “dark” side of the Internet…without you, I would have no idea what it means to torrent something. For the record, I still think torrenting music or movies is shameful, but your skills sure did help me with some of my very expensive textbooks in undergrad! The Microsoft Office I am currently using is from your computer, so I am 99% sure it was torrented. (Maybe I should not be saying this on a public blog post…) I don’t torrent anymore, but I know if I needed to, I could. That’s all you.
You are with me when I eat certain foods. This summer, every time I got a Nerds slush from Sonic (which is pretty often these days) you were there. I remember when we discovered this genius invention…well, you did. I wasn’t sure about it but ended up drinking all of the Nerds out of yours once I realized how amazing it was. We drank so many Nerds slushes together in the summers. The slush discovery is similar to my discovery of Bubble tea. I thought it was so gross, but somehow it grew on me and so I’d drink all the boba out of yours until I realized maybe I should just get my own next time. I always needed you to try something new first because I never was brave enough. You were always open to new things and change. I disliked both. I am so much more open to it now. It is because of you.
Speaking of being brave, you still help me with this. Your life and the loss of you has given me courage and it has energized me to take chances that I would have never taken. When I traveled alone to Puerto Rico last summer, I felt you pushing me to be brave. When I quit my secure, [mostly] fulfilling full-time job, I could feel your support. That decision seemed crazy, and it still does, but it was what was right for my mental health and it was a risk that needed to be taken. And, dammit I am still taking piano lessons, even though I still kinda suck. I push myself to keep going and I feel you nudging me along.
Every day, you are here. I have your handwriting forever on my wrist. I wear your t-shirts. Your face is on my wall and on my shelves. I see you every time I look at Kitty Cat. But you are not only in the physical spaces… you are also inside of who I am. Your energy is alive in me. I hear you using my voice to speak understanding and tolerance to others. I feel you changing my mind about something that I once was so rigid and unwavering about. I hear you reminding me to care less about what others think or how things appear to others.
So, I guess I have less than 5 years until all of my cells that knew your physical being will be gone. Even if this is so, I believe that my soul remains unchanged. And that is where you live. I used to believe in soul mates because I was convinced that you were mine. You never seemed to be persuaded by this notion because you were way too rational and logical (of course this annoyed me greatly). Now, sometimes it feels really sad and lonely to believe that we are soul mates. My soul mate should be doing life with me right now. I should be going on adventures with my soul mate and planning my future with my soul mate. And, if you are my soul mate, it feels unsettling to think I could fall in love again because aren’t we only allowed one soulmate?! I think about the idea of soul mates very differently now, of course. I don’t think we have just one. Or maybe we don’t have them at all. Regardless, I know that our souls are forever connected and intertwined. I have no doubt about this. If this hypothetical future person with whom I fall in love with loves me back, then they love every part of who I am, including you.
One of my dearest friends, and most likely one of my soulmates if they exist, sent me this video a few months after you died. In the video, a revered Buddhist monk uses a metaphor of a cloud transforming into rain to describe death. The cloud may appear to be gone, but it is not gone, it has just become rain or snow or ice. Nothing that exists ever disappears or ceases to exist. My friend said that she envisioned that you’d become rain and that it was like I was standing under your rain shower. Your soul was raining on me and becoming part of me. This impacted me more than she probably knows. I think of this all the time, especially when I am feeling spiritually conflicted. I can still feel your rain.
Thank you, Boris. Thank you for showing me how to cut vegetables without cutting my fingers. Thank you for introducing me to John Oliver. Thank you for helping me realize that it is okay to change my mind about something when presented with new information. Thank you for untangling my headphones. Thank you for showing me how to check my oil. Thank you for making me laugh every day. Thank you for telling me that I am beautiful. Thank you most of all for loving me. I know that in 50 years I may not be able to hear the sound of your voice as clearly in my memory and I may not be able to picture your facial expressions as vividly, but it does not mean that I have forgotten you. It is impossible to forget someone who is forever a part of who I am.