There are people who hide from honest emotional engagement because it is too messy, too scary. I admire those folks like I do fire-eaters and tightrope walkers: I could never do it, but I imagine that it would be cool if I could. At least for a little while.
This is the eve before my aunt Libby's birthday. I love birthdays. Can't remember them to save my life, but I love them. Reason #5 for having a large percentage of male friends - most of them don't remember birthdays either and are thrilled when you buy a round to celebrate theirs even if it is 6 weeks late.
I would not have remembered that Libby's birthday was tomorrow. My mom told me today. She is the oldest sibling and not only remembers birthdays, but has all those other responsible, thoughtful habits that are the hallmark of so many firstborn.
My aunt was many things but responsible was a little lower on her list, let's say. But she had many other fine qualities including a great laugh, a green thumb, an eye for design, a flair for theatrics, and the most beautiful eyes in a family full of beautiful eyes. She loved animals. All of them. She loved Jackson Browne and the Allman Brothers, and dancing. She loved Mardi Gras and Halloween. And she was alive for her birthday last year but is not this year.
I am envying the emotionally distant folks of this world because I imagine them handling something like this pretty easily: the anniversary of the birth of a unique and flamboyant life ended too soon by her own hand. I like to think that this imaginary "they" do all kinds of things in the face of something like this. They play golf. They watch TV. They don't think about it. They don't regret. They don't wish for time machines or amnesia or to wake up and it will all have been a dream. They sure as hell don't blog about it.
I don't eat fire. I am afraid of heights. If I know you more than a day, chances are I'll get emotionally attached to you. And the anniversary of my aunt's birth makes me so sad I don't even know what to do with it. In writing this I am not looking for pity, or comfort, or solace. As I keep looking at the clock waiting for it to be midnight so her birthday will start and we can be closer to it ending I just think... I am not alone.
My mother remembers her sister's birth and has two other siblings who will be trying to get through tomorrow, too. My aunt grew up with twins who remember her birthday like they remember their own. Libby was their "third twin." I inherited the twins in the will Libby did not have. They keep her alive for me. I keep her alive for them. There's Libby's son, her step-daughters, her friends, her neighbors, her husband. Everyone has to deal with tomorrow and the realization that her birthday this year has become something we all "have to deal with".
I have several friends and other family who carry the weight of being recent survivors of suicide loss. Tomorrow may not be their day of lost promise, but they know what I mean. I stopped crying and feeling anxious and wrote this for them. Nobody else seems to be talking about the way it feels when someone you love kills herself and then her birthday comes ten months later and you feel so strange and extra sad. I think it translates to other traumatic deaths and the grief of those survivors, too. I think. I know for sure that there are some losses that make other people afraid to talk to you and this is a big one.
The pain of love lost is dreadful but when I imagine my world without ever having Libby in it, that feels much worse. Maybe next June 6 I'll know what to do with myself. Maybe next year I'll have some emotional distance. What I hope is that next year when my mother reminds me that it is the day before Libby's birthday, I can think about more birthday kind of things in Libby's honor and less funeral thoughts.
More Mardi Gras less Maundy Thursday.
More beer less tears. (She'd find that one extra funny.)
May those who were unable to die at peace, rest in peace. May those of us left behind know peace, too.