I have lost people before. Close friends and family, young people, even younger than you. But I have never had a strong reaction to grief. It has always been a quiet emotion for me, something I have been able to almost cherish in its stillness. I have been the one keeping it together and comforting others. And at first, it was like that with you too. It came as no surprise when you died, you had been sick for such a long time, and maybe you even felt relief when death came. I carried this quiet and beautiful sadness, an acceptance of your death.
But then, at your funeral, something happened. First I thought it was the effect of the collective grief. To see everyone else who loved you, your friends and family, your husband, children and parents and their bottomless grief. I thought it was a reaction to that.
When it was my turn to walk up to your coffin to say goodbye I didn't say goodbye. I said thank you. And as I did something in me was torn loose. I could physically feel it. As if I had carried a capsule of crushed glass somewhere inside me where it did no harm, but that now was ripped apart and the glass spread throughout my body. It hurt so much and I didn't understand it.
The past few days have been a haze. I haven't slept and I've been thinking about you the whole time. And slowly it's dawned on me.
We were so young when we met. Just teenagers. You were brilliant and light and fun. I was self-destructive and raw with crushed glass going through my veins.
I had nowhere to stay. You and your friend had a room to spare and let me move in. You were still in school and I got a shit job as a janitor. But all of our spare time you turned into magic. Every mundane and boring little everyday task you turned into a game or an adventure. You made me laugh every day. Your brilliance and love rubbed off on me, seeped into me. You made me happy. You fixed me, without me ever even realizing it, and I don't think you knew it either. It was just how you were. I can't believe I never realized. That I never got the chance to tell you.
I know you did the same for others. I hope they told you. I hope you knew.
So once more, thank you. Now I can say goodbye. I will always love you.