I didn’t want to come here today and write about her on the anniversary of her death. It’s too easy, too predictable.
But here I am.
I write about Lily all the time, in poems and stories and little notes scribbled in the pages at the back of my calendar. I’ve been living in a world where Lily lives and dies over and over in drafting an essay for my nonfiction workshop, which has been difficult and helpful and altogether frustrating most days. I make myself confront her death all the time in writing because it seems to be the only way I know how to begin dealing and continue to deal with the reality of a world where my friend lived and no longer does.
For just a moment, let’s have an honest conversation about living and dying, one that isn’t blurred by promises of faith and religion, which I understand is an impossible request of me for some of you. But let’s try, okay? Sometimes I wish I had some profound sense of understanding regarding her death. I think that making sense of her death would bring about some kind of peace and closure. But I’m not sold that it’s closure that I want, and I may just be coming to this understanding as I type these words here, so forgive the disjointedness of this post.
What does closure even offer us, or better yet, what do we think it offers us? Does it make it easier to go about our lives without this person, those people? Do we think it’ll bring about normalcy, will it bring back the easiness of our lives before grief and loss? Even two years after her death, I’m not sure I want the easiness, not because I think closure means forgetting or anything like that. There’s something vital that comes with the unsettledness, something that I hope will challenge me to be a little more alive every day for the rest of my life. Right now, I think that the reality of life can be horrifyingly tragic simply because it is defined by mortality. But it is also precious, beautiful, and significant for exactly those reasons.
I don’t know.
Every day, Lily manages to teach me how to live. She pushes me to work harder, to string words together more beautifully and gracefully. She teaches me to say “I love you” when I mean it, and “I’m sorry” when my pride would otherwise keep me from doing so. I don’t have any words for where I think she is and I don’t know how to answer when Victoria asks me if I ever feel her. I don’t know the answer to that.
But sometimes, when the leaves on the trees turn to copper and orange, the same colors of the sunset she took a picture of in Lima before she died, I like to think of her telling me she hears me through the wind that blows chimes hanging from trees in that sad garden where artificial flowers grow next to her red shoes. And I suppose that’s enough for now.
“I know a planet where there is a certain red-faced gentleman. He has never smelled a flower. He has never looked at a star. He has never loved any one. He has never done anything in his life but add up figures. And all day he says over and over, just like you: ‘I am busy with matters of consequence!’ And that makes him swell up with pride. But he is not a man — he is a mushroom!”
The little prince was now white with rage.
“The flowers have been growing thorns for millions of years. For millions of years the sheep have been eating them just the same. And is it not a matter of consequence to try to understand why the flowers go to so much trouble to grow thorns which are never of any use to them? Is the warfare between the sheep and the flowers not important? Is this not of more consequence than a fat red-faced gentleman’s sums? And if I know — I, myself — one flower which is unique in the world, which grows nowhere but on my planet, but which one little sheep can destroy in a single bite some morning, without even noticing what he is doing — Oh! You think that is not important!”
His face turned from white to red as he continued:
“If some one loves a flower, of which just one single blossom grows in all the millions and millions of stars, it is enough to make him happy just to look at the stars. He can say to himself, ‘Somewhere, my flower is there…’ But if the sheep eats the flower, in one moment all his stars will be darkened… And you think that is not important!”
He could not say anything more. His words were choked by sobbing.
The night had fallen. I had let my tools drop from my hands. Of what moment now was my hammer, my bolt, or thirst, or death? On one star, one planet, my planet, the Earth, there was a little prince to be comforted. I took him in my arms, and rocked him. I said to him:
“The flower that you love is not in danger. I will draw you a muzzle for your sheep. I will draw you a railing to put around your flower. I will — “
I did not know what to say to him. I felt awkward and blundering. I did not know how I could reach him, where I could overtake him and go on hand in hand with him once more.
It is such a secret place, the land of tears.
The Little Prince