It seemed I hadn't thought of Aimee much yesterday, which is a rare kind of day for me. Who she was, and what our friendship was, was so much a part of my life for so many years that, frankly, it's hard to swing a dead cat around here without hitting something in my house, my computer, or my life that reminds me of her. But for whatever reason, when I talked to my friend Deb about this today, I didn't think I had spent much time thinking of Aimee yesterday...I would later remember that I had been smacked squarely in the face with the idea that she won't have a birthday next March while I was filling out my 2009 calendar. I sat at my kitchen table and cried when I saw her name on March 10 of this year. But moments of grief come and go, and I guess the sad reality is that I'm getting used to them. Anyway, the point is that I didn't think I'd spent much time thinking of her yesterday.
So I was taken aback and breath-stolen to see her sitting before me last night, in my dream. She was wearing a green and white striped polo shirt, and her curly dark hair was falling gently across her forehead. I could see her then as clearly as the screen in front of me now. It was all so vivid, and lacked the usual dream fog that clouds their memory. I could see the crease in her forehead that is uniquely hers, and could feel her skin as I touched her arm, and she was exhaling her cigarette smoke in that way that she had. We talked, and laughed, and it was much like many of the real conversations we had together (save the fact that most of those were on the phone) when she was alive - not particularly significant (although there were certainly those had, as well) but just another fiber, another stitch, in the fabric of our friendship.
What was different from the real-life chats we shared was how it ended. It ended with me waking. Waking to remember the reality of what's true.
Aimee is still dead.
She's not wearing a green and while polo shirt. She is wearing maternity clothes that she picked out but never wore with breath in her body. They are cut up the back, surely, and looked lovely on her as she lay in her casket. She is not sitting in a chair in a hotel room. There are no more chats. No more visits. No more meals together. Nothing.
My best friend is rotting in a box in Iowa. THAT is the reality. Her tiny, petite hands that held my children; her beautiful curls; her perfect never-drilled-in-all-her-30-years teeth; her nose that wiggled when she talked; her ears that listened to every word I ever spoke; her arms that hugged me just days before she died; her mouth that spoke whatever words I needed to hear - all of her. She's decaying in a box, those parts of her we could touch, feel and see - while her husband, her parents and her best friend, along with countless others, are left to wonder why, to know that no medical explanation will ever ease any measure of pain for any of us. No amount of time will stop this ache at losing someone who meant so very much to me. Time does not heal all wounds. As I sit here sobbing at my keyboard - once again offering God anything if he'll just make it not true, if he'll just give her back - I know and feel and believe that there is no end to this loss.
It seems vivid and grotesque to talk about the state of her body, I'm sure, and I'm sorry for that. Be assured it's not for shock value. It's just the only reality I can think of right now, for whatever reason.
The other realities are too painful...and yet here they come anyway.
I gasp for breath when I remember that she's almost 20 weeks along...or she would have been. Almost time to find out if the baby is a boy or a girl. She would have called me walking out of the OB's office and made me guess, and then screamed it to me, and we'd have spent an hour talking about names and clothes and nursery themes. I will never get that phone call. Nik will never see the ultrasound of his baby that his beautiful wife was carrying. Her parents will never, ever be grandparents.
Because Aimee died.
She died. Can you hear how fucked up and painful and gut-wrenching those two simple words are to me? To all of us who loved her?
So THOSE are the other realities. In light of all of that sadness and loss and emptiness, the state of her earthly remains seems almost non-offensive to consider. If I close my eyes, I go back and forth - between seeing her laying there in that box, looking so very much UNlike Aimee, and seeing her sitting with me last night, in that shirt, with that smile, talking and laughing and being my best friend. I am unable to discern which image is less painful...the beautiful mirage that teases my heart in my hours of sleep, or the cold reality that at least spares me any false hope.
And at the end of it all, I don't think it matters. She's still gone, I still miss her, it still doesn't make any sense, and I still don't know how I'll ever move beyond the pain of losing her. And it's all come about because I filled out my calendar for the new year, on a day where I didn't particularly spend a great deal of time thinking of her. I had been hopeful that 2009 would bring brighter days, that there would be joy to come. And maybe there will be. But March 10 will suck. She would have been 31, and instead she just...won't be.
And the tears come again. No catchy ending, no cleverly-worded poignant close. Just me, crying from the depths of my sad, broken heart, wishing the dream was reality and the last three month's reality could somehow be a dream.