It was nine years ago today that my fiancée Carla died.
The weeks immediately after her death were a blend of profound sorrow and emptiness.
Carla, who led a colorful and sometimes pain-filled life, used to joke: “Growth experiences are a bitch.”
Yeah, that about described it.
Looking back on those early months after her death opens a window unto my state of mind and how I was coping. Below is an excerpt from an email I wrote a little less than four months after she died.
I think of it as a meditation on a man in mourning.
March 18, 2007
Mom and Dad came up to help me go through Carla’s footwear (Imelda Marcos was such a rank amateur), coats, jackets, pants, sweaters, tops and her bling.
Mom also ably went through what we used to refer to as the “foofoo bathroom,” the one upstairs that I ceded to Carla and that she promptly turned into a “girlie” bathroom with all the perfumes, sprays, lotions and other female-y stuff to match.
Mom was able to fill something like nine black garbage bags with clothes and shoes to donate to charity. Wow, did Carla have good taste – albeit a bit weird at times — in clothes and accessories. Of course, that would match her taste in men! LOL
I came back to the house today after dropping Mom and Dad off at my sister’s and went into the foofoo bathroom. Sure, it’s the same but it is something less now.
Carla’s crazy, chaotic style of stocking the shelves has been replaced with organized groupings of stuff that’s worth keeping.
Her dresser, once a hodge-podge of décor is now a bunch of jewelry boxes, stacked.
And the closet? Devoid of her nutty, weirdly stylish array of clothes.
The sense of loss came back as if you were at the beach and had your back turned to the ocean and a wave crashes over you and knocks you down. You suddenly are below water, and then break through, cursing and wondering what the hell just happened.
And then it came back again: How dare she leave me and the boys? Who the hell did she think she was, not taking care of herself like that? Why didn’t she get to the doctor sooner?
So much for forward momentum.
And then came this: Come home from grocery shopping with the boys. Stowing the food and came across an open bag of her beloved Sun Chips. And with audible apologies to her, I took it and tossed it in the trash.
But then came time for Mike to help me put away cans of my soda.
And there they were: Two 12 packs of her goddamned Pepsi, squirreled away in a narrow little cabinet by the stove. The Pepsi that I was in charge of stocking in the fridge, the Pepsi that she would start the day off with a “pffffft” as she pulled back the can’s tab, the Pepsis she carried EVERY-friggin’-WHERE with her – doctor’s offices, fairs, shopping, you name it.
And so Mike asked such a simple, but profound question at that moment: What are we going to do with the Pepsi?
Damned Mike if I know.
Much in the same way I still have the cooler that was packed with her Pepsi on Nov. 6 – the day we headed to the doc’s and then the hospital – still sitting in the truck, untouched, unopened.
So, yeah, where do you put the Pepsi and the pain?
The answer I think lies in not mourning Carla’s death but continuing to celebrate her life.
She had no use for the pity pot and would probably kick my ass from here to next Tuesday if she thought I was wallowing in self-pity.
Doesn’t necessarily make it any easier, but there it is.
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