I listened to your last words today.
So there is this voice message you sent me right before you died. It’s been in my phone for over 6 years, but I could never make myself press play. After the accident happened, in the haze of hospitals and gatherings of those awful days that followed, I went to write you. I’d been calling you incessantly, wondering why you didn’t pick up, but when I pulled up our chat and saw a voice message there I couldn’t bear to listen.
Even though a part of me was trying to reach you, the thought of hearing your voice was too much.
In my head I knew you were gone but my heart couldn’t accept it. I think I knew that if I heard your voice spoken in a message from days earlier somehow it would click that it was all true – that you actually weren’t coming back - and I couldn’t risk the possibility of that. So I kept the message like a trinket. It became this thing I carried around with me that I didn’t want to let go of. I knew if I played the message it would lose it’s magic; the spell would break. But as long as I didn’t listen to it I felt like I had an extension of you, a piece of you that was still brand new.
I had something to wait for. A part of you I’d get to see again. Words you wanted to tell me that I’d never heard you say.
I thought I would listen to it on my wedding day. I knew not having you there by my side would be unbearable and listening to your last words on that day might make me feel like you were there somehow. It turned out I didn’t have to listen to that message. You were there in every moment. In every hug, every dance, every tear shed. I felt you. We all felt you. So I didn’t listen to the message. I saved it. Savoured it. I thought, maybe I’ll listen to it on your birthday. I knew it would be a hard day and hearing your voice would bring me solace. But I didn’t listen then either. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Then came the first anniversary of your death and I sat there with the phone in my hand but that day was so hard I wanted to crawl out of my skin and after I’d cried all the tears a human being could possibly cry I fell asleep.
And so it came to be that this message I’d had in my phone for a year took on a life of it’s own; it wasn’t just a voice message you sent after you dropped me off at the airport anymore but a message from you from the other side. I started clinging to that message as if I was clinging to you. Listening to it would mean I’d never again have something new from you. All your words to me would be spoken and gone. Never again will you call or write or tell me stories about your day. That message… It became all I had left. Every anniversary, every birthday, every milestone I almost listened. But never did.
On your birthday 3 years ago, at 42 weeks pregnant, I sat under the moon and begged you to talk to me. To guide me through. I reached for my phone but even then; on the cusp between maiden and motherhood, terrified and missing you so much I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Listening would mean letting go - and I wasn’t ready. I told myself; eventually there will be a moment that’s so special I’ll just know that the time has come. It will be in ceremony somewhere or on a mountaintop or you’ll visit me in a dream to tell me its time but at some point a special, lifechanging moment will arrive and I’ll just know and then I’ll listen.
Its been 6 years and 8 months now. Then came this morning. It wasn’t a special morning in anyway at all; no anniversary, no mountaintop, no grand awakening, just a regular Monday morning at home. But I felt you from the moment I woke up. I rose before dawn and got dressed and lit candles and burned palo santo and the whole time, I felt like I had to hurry up because something was coming and I didn’t want to miss it.
I turned on our music and started dancing and just like that, the space between missing you and you being here blurred and suddenly, you were there dancing with me. Just like old times. We danced and danced and closing my eyes, I was transported back to the moment we lowered your urn into your grave. I was there, dangling my feet into the empty space where we lay your ashes to rest and there was glitter in the air and my toenails were yellow even though that was never my color, it was yours so they looked more like your feet than mine. I was me but I was also you, sitting on the edge of that grave, so alive. And in the middle of all the dancing and crying and remembering, even though it was just a Monday morning and not a very particular day at all, I grabbed my phone and pulled up our chat and I pressed play.
Your voice filled the whole room.
You told me you couldn’t believe it was ending. You were talking about our last trip together, you were talking about the festival, but really you were talking about your life. It was ending and you couldn’t believe it. You said it with such joy-filled sadness. We’ve had the time of our lives, but it’s ending now.
I love you so much, you said.
I am so grateful to have you in my life, you said
I’ll see you soon, you said.
And the last words you ever told me, the very last, were the same words I told you on that last day as we hugged so tight; me late for my flight, you right on time to begin your ending.
The same words I told you the day we met
the same words I told you as we lowered your glitter and ashes into the ground
the same words I have told you every day since you left
the same words I will tell you every day until it’s my turn to go and we’ll meet again: