The morning light pours in the window and slowly he rolls over, stretching and yawning as he anticipates another day. Just another ordinary, predictable day.
Now perched at the side of the bed, he rubs the sleep from his eyes and absentmindedly reaches into the drawer of the bedside table for it. It was gone.
That’s odd, he thought. He was sure it was there when he went to bed last night. Retracing his steps, he heads to the front door and checks the closet. The coat he wore last night is hanging there, but the pockets are empty. To the bathroom. No sign of it there either. Not wanting to give in to the anxiety that’s beginning to creep in, he takes a deep breath and heads for the living room. Cushions are frantically over-turned; blankets are shaken, and dust bunnies are disturbed with his hand reaching under the couch.
It’s got to be here. He tries to assure himself as he circles back to the bedroom. It can’t be gone.
Frantically, he rummages through the small table. Note pads, pens, receipts and other miscellaneous items are being carelessly flung across the room as hope turns to panic. Impossible.
He sits at the edge of the bed, slowly rocking back and forth in an attempt at self-comfort.
I can’t even call anyone, he realizes.
Just get dressed, buddy. You can do this. Just one step at a time.
Standing under an ice-cold shower, he tries to bring some life into his stunned body. He throws on the clothes that he’d hung on the back of the chair the night before, unconcerned about the wrinkles.
The drive across town was a blur; he barely remembers being behind the wheel. This should be cause for concern, but right now his ability to feel anything but loss is impossible.
Squaring his shoulders, he feigns confidence as he walks inside. “Excuse me,” his quivering voice betrays him. “I’ve lost my phone.”
“Oh, we’re so sorry to hear that. Life can be difficult, you know.”
“Yeah, no kidding. Could I please get a replacement?”
“Oh my,” the representative says. “You obviously didn’t read your contract thoroughly. Such a pity. So many people forget the fine print.”
“What do you mean? Just transfer my information onto another one. It doesn’t have to be a newer model; I’d be happy with—I’d prefer– the same one.” His hands are splayed as he braces himself against the counter, sweat forming above his lip.
“I’m afraid not. You only get one in a lifetime and if you lose it, there are no replacements.”
“But that’s not fair! There were conversations that I hadn’t responded to yet, I didn’t have the chance to download the memories onto another device and all my connections were on it. If I can’t have a replacement, I’ll lose everything.”
“Did I stutter, sir?” The representative was becoming impatient with him. “I said no replacements. Ever.”
“You don’t understand!” he was crying now. “Everything was on that phone. My whole life was in there.”
The representative stared with eyes void of any emotion.
“C’mon man, have a heart. Do you mean to say I can never have my phone—any phone?”
The representative’s eyes narrowed, delivering an almost venomous reply. “Listen carefully, because I’m not going to repeat myself. For as long as you walk this earth, you will never again have a phone. You will walk around watching people enjoying theirs. You will see people smiling and laughing as they text one another. By habit, you’ll reach into your pocket for your phone, only to be reminded that it’s not there and never will be. The only pictures you can retrieve are the ones that are etched on your brain. The memory card was lost with the phone, and you will have access to neither.”
It’s been a bit of a shit-show these last few weeks. My peer support mama warned me about this phenomenon. I call it Groundhog Day. To everyone who follows a regular calendar, Hilary died almost ten months to the day. For me, it might as well have been yesterday—sometimes even today. I get that it’s old news to most people—even family members, but please don’t force me into your timetable. My journey isn’t the same as yours and there are no familiar landmarks for me to use to get my bearings.
I’d been wracking my brains to find an analogy of loss that people can relate to, and it came to me on my morning drive to church when I thought I’d lost my phone. If there’s anything that can cause a human-doer’s emotions to run the gamut from mild concern to near hysteria, it’s losing one’s cell phone.
Maybe it’s irreverent to compare losing a child with losing a cell phone, but for those of you who think ten months is long enough to be sad, to cry and to lament, give me your frigging phone.
For an entire month.
I’ll lock it up for you where you can’t even see it or hear that ridiculous ringtone. For the next thirty days, you can imagine the thousand memes you’re missing on Face Book. All the likes on your Family Christmas photos will be irrelevant by the time I give you your phone back, and should I even mention the missed text messages? Yeah, people are going to think you’ve forgotten them. They’re probably going to write you off because you’ve been ‘distant’. If you weren’t savvy enough to WRITE OUT your contact list with phone numbers, you won’t even know how to get in touch with people. Of course, you’ve probably already ditched your landline, so now you’re really screwed. You may actually have to resort to real-time visits with those who recognize you outside of your FB profile. Brace yourself: this will involve getting dressed, wearing deodorant and, God-forbid, leaving your house.
Can you feel the anxiety? Can you imagine how inconvenient that loss would be? And it’s only a phone.
I don’t intend to lament forever. I will grieve forever, but I suspect at some point there will be more laughter and fewer tears. Maybe, maybe not. I’m still new to this and each day brings with it a new revelation. Disbelief, for one. Not just in the situation, but the way people handle—or don’t handle it.
If you think you’re helping by not speaking Hilary’s name or talking about her, you’re not. It actually hurts more. Hilary was a funny, complicated and talented young woman. I want to hear your stories and I need to share mine. You can nudge me if I tell the same story twice– I’m prone to that because, quite frankly, some are worth repeating. Tears, I’ve found are very healing, so if you feel like crying, let it come. Your tears won’t upset me—let me comfort you for a change. We can only deeply grieve someone whom we deeply loved.
I’ve learned to let a lot go in the last year. In a year of refinement, I’ve given up mindsets. Roles. Relationships. I suspect as I let go of things, it will free me to pick up other things. Peace, joy and a genuine sense of purpose—these are things I want for 2020. It may take a while to get there. If you don’t want to join me on the journey, fine. Just don’t get in my way.