June 16, 2017 is a day I have bookmarked in my calendar. I knew the story of this day without looking at text messages or emails or pictures. I thought it would be easy to write today. But when I sat down, I couldn’t think of how to start this post, where to begin this particular narrative.
So I stared at the screen for a while. Scrolled through Facebook for even longer. And typed and deleted a hundred different introductory sentences.
Nothing felt true, and ultimately, I think that’s because the only words in my head about today are words from post-hope. Which maybe means the only way to begin the story of this day is through the ending. So here it is.
A lot of my grief is focused on what I lost. What the kids lost, what Matt’s family and friends lost. So much of my grieving is focused on what we–those who are left behind– are missing. That punchline at the end of a story, that voice calling to talk fantasy football trade, that smile promising everything will be okay. But in the story of today, the ache in my chest belongs completely to what Matt lost. What Matt is missing. The dream he never got to live.
A year ago today, hours after H’s preschool career ended with an adorable graduation, Matt and his father officially sold their company. They closed an 85 year old chapter of the family’s history. And Matt met this day of endings with nothing but celebration.
I’ve written a little about this before, mentioned how Matt and his father decided to sell the company after the truth of Matt’s diagnosis settled in, and then told the story of how, as hope grew, Matt began to see a future for himself working alongside the buyers, growing the company in the exact way he’d always dreamed. I want to write that he was excited for this next phase of his life, but the word excited feels insufficient. He was so much more than excited. He was on the cusp of living a dream.
Then September happened. Matt’s health declined faster than we ever could have imagined and the dream was savagely ripped away.
And I’m left with nothing but the certainty that he would have loved going into work everyday. He would have loved the business meetings and data analysis methods and new employees powering the family business into the exact direction he dreamed. He would have really loved coming home every night to pace the living room, exhausted but exuberant, while giving me a play-by-play of his day.
The breadth of his loss, the ache in saying “he would have,” shatters me in a way that defies words.
But since words are how I cope (and I’ve committed to daily posts), I looked for another story from this day and found June 16, 2016. Matt’s first official day as a cancer patient. Our first meeting with a neuro-oncologist at Hackensack. The pathology report was not yet available. We could discuss nothing but generalities, which was enough to shut the door on our pre-cancer life. And still, we both walked out of that appointment feeling invincible.
And in that story, I found my introductory sentence to this post.
June 16, 2016 was the beginning of our fight for a miracle. A year later, June 16, 2017 was the beginning of Matt’s dream come true. June 16, a day that could have been overwhelmed by endings, is marked in my memory as a day of hope-filled beginnings.