I’m writing this letter to say hello and to reconnect. My last letter was posted in January 2022 and I feel that I have a lot to write about, so here I am, beginning again.
The day that I am writing this, 11/21/23 marks one year since I said goodbye to my beloved Bonnie. I remember that on this day last year, time stood still. There was this feeling that maybe is only possible when you know death is near. This acknowledgement that the time left together can be counted in hours. Individual moments felt like the world around us stopped.
It’s different, of course, when you have any window of time before death. When you don’t find out after the fact. It is a gift to have that time. And it has its own unique difficulties. My mind filled easily with what I wish I had done differently and how I wish we had more time.
Bonnie's sweet and gentle face rescued me from that anguish, though.
I felt present for her, in those last days. I knew that there was nowhere else in the world to be and nothing else in the world to do. What an honor. How peaceful could life be if we felt that reassurance always? That knowledge that this moment is the most important. I know it’s true, even when you are not facing death. But I don’t always live like it’s true.
I continue to get so caught in the past, especially during the past two months. It’s a place I don’t want to be. Yet, over and over, I’m pulled there, ruminating on all the pain that has already happened. Regretting the ways I have not been kind enough and have hurt others. My mindfulness practice is helping me, but spending time in the past is a hard habit to break. Even with awareness, I am causing myself so much suffering.
Today I think Bonnie can be my guide again, back to the present moment. My truly unconditionally-loving reminder that this is it. We don’t get more time.
I don't know if I believed in angels before Bonnie. Maybe there's a better word for that type of being, but I think angel is close enough for now. Someone who is helping you in ways you will never fully know. Someone that offers love and joy as if they have everything in the world, even though they deserve so much better than what the world has given them. Bonnie is my angel. She continues to help me and support me.
And it’s not just the memory of her. It’s her. Do you know what I mean? I know people (myself included) talk about how our loved ones stay with us always and sometimes that’s so irritating to hear. Like, no, they are not here with me. I miss seeing them. I miss hearing them. I want to give them a hug. And it's painful that I can't. It can be frustrating to hear this sentiment that we still have them when it feels so untrue. I get this. There is nothing that compares to a Bonnie hug, and I miss her presence. On some level, they are gone. We don’t get to be with them the way we knew.
And somehow, at the same time… On some level, they are still here. Really. Not just their memory. They are actually still affecting us like they did when they were around. Maybe not as much, maybe not as often. Or maybe even more. It depends and it changes. But it really feels like I’ve been able to have new moments with Bonnie despite her physical transformation.
Moments of connection and joy and love. It’s hard to explain. Memories and photos help, and so does imagining her, if she were here. But it’s not those things that make her feel present. It is the real way that I feel affected by her and like she is still with me, even though it's in a less visible way. She hasn't stopped making me smile and inspiring me to be a more loving and kind person.
She also sent me and my family a puppy earlier this spring, who we fostered and named Bluebonnet. That’s a story for another time, but I trust that it wouldn't have happened without Bonnie.
Even though I would prefer to have her physically here, and to never have to see her grow old and be sick, I am thankful that I still have her the way that I do. She brought something to my life that just wasn't there before. New love exists in me, that grew from seemingly out of nowhere. And even though she is gone on some level, that something isn't gone. Maybe it never really goes away, even when we ourselves die. The love and presence that others bring into our lives continues to exist beyond us.
I know that everyone reading this has lost loved ones. Sometimes we had a window of time. Sometimes we learned after they were already gone. Some of those deaths we may feel more peace with, while some of those deaths still cause us deep pain. It depends and it changes. Someone said to me recently that grief needs its story told.
I guess this letter tells a little of that story for me, from the past year. Could I ever really capture the extent of my grief in words? I don't think any language is vast enough for that. Maybe it has to be little bits here and there. The grief accumulates over the course of a lifetime, doesn't it? It’s not just about death. Or our loved ones. There is so much to grieve. Maybe the story of grief needs to be told in small ways, again and again.
I, like you, have untold stories of grief, that maybe over time will be shared. I also, like you, have much, much more joy that needs its story told. I plan to write here more and share about the joys of this past year in particular. Thank you for reading my letters and viewing my photos, whenever you do. I'm grateful to be able to connect in this way. Please know that I'm here to listen to your stories of grief and joy, too.