how well did you live. how well did you love. how well did you learn to let go.
this picure doesn't mean anything to you yet, but hopefully by the end of this story, it will.
a lot of people have asked me how i've been doing since everything happened with wilbur. today marks two weeks since he has passed away. although i'm doing better than i was two weeks ago, part of me is still struggling every day. of course right after it happened, i felt like it was going to take a while to pull me out of the dark place i was in. the day after i flew home, i probably would have gone the entire day without eating if my mom hadn't gone out to get me something. i was in a daze. no matter how prepared you are for a loved one's death--and to tell you the truth, finding out two days before i was leaving just how sick wilbur was really wasn't much of a preparation--you can never truly be prepared or know what to expect. my days are up and down. i'm having an easier time with being myself: you know, the fanny that talks to every stranger in the elevator, that smiles and waves at the man who greets you at walmart, and who always has something cheerful to say, even at eight in the morning. but there's still a part of me that feels a little empty. wilbur was my comfort, my security blanket, the one who jumped into my arms every single day and loved me simply for being myself.
like i said, even though i'm doing better than i was two weeks ago, i'd be lying if i said that every time i walk into my room i don't expect to see wilbur come leaping down off of the window sill. it's hard to go from being with someone every single day and night to all of a sudden not being able to hold them whenever you want to. but the story that i want to share with you is not about dealing with that side of the sadness. i believe that's something that only time can heal. the day that wilbur passed away, i fell into a place of hopelessness. i felt as though because i should have been there with him when it happened, and i obviously couldn't change that now, i was going to be stuck with these feelings forever. and part of me felt like i would never be able to forgive myself. the more i talked to family and friends, the more i was told over and over again that wilbur wanted everything to happen this way. he wanted my last memory of him to be a happy one and he was waiting for me to leave so that he could leave too. combined with the fact that wilbur was okay when i left, there was no need to blame myself for not being there. there was no need for blame PERIOD. so here's where the story comes in:
after more nights than i can count where i laid in bed and asked to dream about wilbur so i could be with him again, my wish was finally granted. a few nights ago, wilbur made his way into my dreams but sadly, it felt like more of a nightmare. in this dream, i was in my parents living room with wilbur and our two family cats (mango and zoro). the strange thing was that only i could see wilbur. mango and zoro could sense that he was there and would get close to him, which did NOT make wilbur happy, but to them, he was invisible. in the dream, i kept following wilbur around trying to pick him up and get him away from the other cats and every time i picked him up and put him down, he seemed to get a little more wobbly. at one point, i walked into the kitchen with him and when i went to put him down, all of his joints tightened up and i could almost feel the pain that he was in. he meowed--loudly, which he was known for--and at the end of the meow a voice actually came out of his mouth and formed these two words: it hurts.
within a few seconds, his arms and legs kind of curled in towards his body and as i stood there holding him, i heard a loud cry. the cry was my voice but in the dream i hadn't opened my mouth. as soon as i realized that the noise was coming from me, i woke up. i sat up in bed and tried to catch my breath. it was 5:38 AM and i was scared. eventually i got up and went to the bathroom and on my way back in i looked down at the anklet on my foot. it was a bracelet that my best friend had gotten me and although it has gotten loose and somewhat scraggly looking, i had refused to take it off. i saw that the anklet had come loose yet again and as i reached down and touched it with my hand, it dropped to the floor. as i stared at the broken thread that had taken so long to finally come apart, i felt as if the universe was trying to send me some sort of a sign.
i don't believe that this was a sign trying to force me to let go of wilbur, i feel like it was telling me to let go of this idea i've had in my head about not being there with him. it was as if the dream was trying to show me that wilbur was holding on as long as i was there with him, and maybe he wouldn't have let go if i had been here with him. maybe he would have just stayed in pain. even though this was not the dream i was hoping for, i know that it was meant to teach me something. the anklet falling off was a reminder to me that i'm the kind of person who has a very hard time letting things go. whether it's a t-shirt, a red volvo that my parents had when i was little, a conversation, or a bracelet that's hanging on by a thread--i seem to have a difficult time loosening my grip and letting go. the dream was a sign in itself, but when i touched that anklet and it slipped right off of my leg, i knew that the universe was telling me to begin to let go. will i ever honestly get over the fact that i wasn't there holding wilbur when he passed? ...the truth? maybe not. when you take care of someone and love them as if their your own child, it's hard to not imagine being there with them through the good, the bad, and the end. BUT this dream has allowed me to begin the healing process of not being so hard on myself and feeling so overwhelmed with guilt and blame. now that i've started to deal with that, the emotions that i'm beginning to feel have more to do with missing him than they do about beating myself up.
i know you're all still wondering about that picture of the window.
a few days after i came home from california, my sister suggested writing a letter to wilbur to get out some of the things that i felt like i want to say to him, but can't. it wasn't meant to cure my sadness, it was just a way to deal with all of my emotions. i wrote the letter, sealed it in an envelope, and placed it on the window sill where wilbur spent most of his time in my room. every day i still open my window in honor of him even though there's he's not there to jump up and sunbathe. last friday, i sat on my floor and played the guitar. it was the first time i had done that since i had been back. no matter what wilbur was doing, when i would sit down on the floor and pick up my guitar, he would immediately come and try to climb onto my lap. it's pretty hard to sit on someone's lap that's playing the guitar so sometimes he would just sit an inch away from me--his face nearly touching the strings--and listen to me play. after a few minutes of strumming and feeling the tears build up in my eyes, i looked up at the window and saw something that i haven't shared with anybody until now:
i know that some of you may not have any clue what this is just yet, but let me explain. a little over a year ago, i had gone to pick up wilbur's bowl after feeding him and found this:
my mom used to bring in the cats bowls to show us when one of them had licked a heart into their food, but i had NEVER seen anything like this in my life. as i looked up at that window where wilbur sat everyday--where the letter i wrote to him was now taking his place--and saw that shadow, i knew that it was wilbur's way of telling me that he's okay. i also felt like it was his way of telling me to stop blaming myself for not being there. it was as if he was sending me a sign that said "it's okay...see?" i laughed, i cried, i took a picture. and then i saw it again the next day.
and again the next day. i even saw it when i walked outside to the car and looked up at my window from the driveway. now i know that some people may think that the bracelet falling off my ankle five minutes after i had that dream was because it was an old bracelet; and that the shadow i've seen day after day on my window is just leaves that are coincidentally in the shape of a smiley face. but i'd like to think that it's more than that. i like to think that the breeze on a hot day is someone i've lost giving me a reminder that they're still around. i like to think that every time i see a rainbow, it's my sister's way of letting me know she's thinking about me in hawaii.
but that's just me.