I thought I was done saying goodbye.
Two years ago when we picked out a casket and packed up your clothes and typed out your eulogy, I thought this was goodbye. I remember sitting on your cold bedroom floor with your life sprawled around me as I helped fold your clothes and got a whiff of your smell so suddenly, I broke down into tears immediately because I was sure I wouldn’t ever smell you anymore. I remember that bitter-powdered cocoa smell with an overpowering twinge of smoke had formed a lump in my throat that I refused to swallow because I didn’t know if the smell would ever again sneak up my nose. As difficult and morose it was to find little boxes to contain your entire life, it felt easier to know this would be the only time I would have to say goodbye.
I thought I said goodbye when we laid you to rest in glistening marble as grey as cement with grass growing out of your chest and a tree mindlessly swaying above our heads as we hold your tombstone and lament. I thought I said goodbye the day I stood in a crowded room with hundreds of faces staring back at me as I read your eulogy in a monotone voice, hoping the detachment would help prevent my descent. I remember rushing through memories as I tried my best to speak on behalf of everybody but at the very end, I turned around swiftly and planted a big kiss on your head, something you’d never let me do otherwise – but today I was saying my goodbyes.
I remember saying goodbye when our summer of immense grief came to an end and it was time for me to go back to Rome as if nothing had happened. Your life had been packed and distributed, and the rest had been brought back. You had been laid to rest and months had gone by for us to have practiced using past tense instead of the present. I thought I had said goodbye the second I stepped on to that plane and the curtains drew on this summer, realizing that now it’s about learning how to live life after the tragedy; learning how to survive. I knew the grief wouldn’t just go away, that there was more to come and more to learn from – but I thought I was done saying goodbye.
And yet here I am sitting in your teenage bedroom again, finding the words to have a conversation that I thought long-ago ended. I’m sitting surrounded by football magazines you kept hidden in textbooks while you would pretend to be studying, the stacks of dusty DVDs that you were hoarding, old notebooks and journals full of doodles and notes you passed around in class, and the collection of Archie comics that still looks like its growing. There are so many pieces of the young boy who lived in this room still spilling out and causing confusion, and I am sitting in the middle of it all, laugh-crying at our reunion. For I thought I was done saying goodbye but as I get ready to pack up this house and all of our lives, you’ve snuck back in for a little while. And despite the tremendous strain of having to relive the overwhelming emptiness and pain all over again as I find the right ways and rituals to say yet another goodbye – being with you one more time is a pleasant surprise.