My room looks a lot like it did last year. You used to type me messages from that little white phone before it belonged to your beautiful sister. I’d read them from a spot just like this. I had the same pillow. I had the same blanket. Just sat here, a floor above where I am now. In fact, it all kind of looks the same. But, oh, it’s so different.
Remember that day before this one, when you begged my brother and me to stay and spend the night with you? You didn’t need much to convince us, but we had to go where we had to do. He rubbed your head because you told him to, and I said I’d come back. That was the last day he saw you here. Not for me. I came back, and got one more night. It’s always this cliche thing, isn’t it, how song lyrics can move their way into day to day life? So much so, it seems, that there have been some written about you.
Your sister had just been your sister at that time, before she was my best friend. She drove up in her Red Rocket, and parked where she always wants to even now. She didn’t know how to get into the building, so called me and I waved from the window. She sat there and told me about what was hard, and who didn’t understand, and we were silent. A lot. We stopped for smoothies on the way home, and they tasted more real than they had before. All the moments before and after, just as vibrant as the taste changes within my senses. We didn’t know what we were about to experience, but we knew it would be real. We knew it would change us and tie us, forever. The silence told us so.
You and I sat in that room for a bit. Even our small talk was huge. There is no real small talk when it’s all there is; counting down days. There’s an unwritten understanding that we almost wished to paint the world in. We were going to eat dinner. Your sister and I stood and watched as your father moved you over the one, then two, hard steps to the picnic table in the back yard. You can still see the light now, can’t you? You knew it was beautiful even then. You hurt. You hurt. You hurt. You were about to become whole. We all knew. The light shone in your darkening eyes as the oxygen pump creaked alongside you. The sunset, just as your eyes.
Your sister rolled you over to the rain gutter after we talked about the food at school. What else do we talk about? What we live. We stared at that toad and you both raved about what you loved from life while you were adventurers. All these places weren’t just home; they were back dirt roads, tree forts, and adventures. “They were everything,” your eyes told me.
The sun set as we threw bouncy balls. Ferret smell. You know you’re laughing about that now. I’m sure it’s some sort of eternal grace. Hairbo gummy bears and patches for drugs. Two oxygen tanks. Movie decisions. Longing one more time for freedom. We were trusted in those moments. Your mom loved you so much in that day. And we all broke for ourselves, not for you.
Your best friend came over. He laughed with me about zombies and ran around helping you while your sister and I got made fun of for our movie watching antics. We texted people and realized reality, and you were dying. But you were living. 5am we talked about salvation. I learned how much I loved you. I learned how much cancer had changed me. I learned. You taught me.
Your best friend and I had tears in our eyes as he rolled over and looked at me. You had goodbyes to whisper. And there was no changing that. You told your sister to be strong and that she was beautiful. And, she needed that, as ever little sister does.
The light came with 6am, and your continually wheezing in those hours. Of all that I remember, I remember this.
You said to me, “Never be moving too fast to lay and listen. To listen to the silence.”
I couldn’t hug you when I left to find out that I was going to have a nephew soon.
Everything for four of us changed that day.
So, today, I sit. Your sister and best friend cover the walls of this little room. I look out over the volleyball court after she leaves in her blue Intrepid. There’s a monarch out there. It’s silent. I watch it flutter into the blowing wind. It moves side to side, and not forward. It fights it for a while. Up, down, over, toward me, away from me. And, then it almost stops in mid air. As if the hand of eternity reached down to touch it, it floats up, and backwards, where the wind moves it. When it quit fighting, it was free. I’m almost certain you know what I mean.
Your best friend is playing in his first football game of the year tonight. Your sister thinking of you. You understand more than we, and we know no more pain there is for us.
And today, we remember. We live, and we breathe. For four of us it changed, and will never again be the same. I can’t ever be the one that I was, as I sit here and stare at where her car used to be. And love, dear friend, wraps us where we are. We can’t be far from each other, regardless of what they say. What would you say?
For our tears fall silent, and the reminders whisper deep. Dear freedom, we know you’ll keep.
“You are Home. I will see you once again. You’re forever in our hearts, my friend.”
…because love wins.