June 17, 2013

The Memory of a Dead Lover. ~ Ava Graham Millar

I have no words of wisdom—but I have experience of what few my age have ever had to face.

I am older now, but still young according to what counts.

And I have many stories to tell. They burn and seethe within me, seeking escape. But they will not be heard until I purge this from my soul. Until then, there is only one story for me to tell.

Followed by consequences that reverberate through the years. The first graveside visit. The dreams. The nightmares. The loneliness. The tears. The guilt.

Ah, the guilt.

The guilt is worse than the pain; no one ever tells you that. It is not a part of the lexicon of condolences. I am sorry for your loss. You have my sympathy. Those words we are all taught to take us through that first meeting with the grief-stricken. With the survivor. With the one who is left.

People know we have lost something. They never consider how much of what we have lost we consider our fault.

And there is a time limit too. After a while people become uncomfortable with grief, as if there is a schedule one is supposed to follow, packing the pain and guilt away before it becomes a burden on anyone else.

Shock. Anger. Despair. Bargaining. Acceptance. These are the stages of grief, we are all the same in that. I made more than my share of bargains with the Devil, but he never paid up.

So, to those few of you who are the one left.

What happens when you have reached acceptance? Sat with it for years and know it intimately, know every aspect of its up and downs.

What do you do with the memory of a dead lover?

Where does acceptance take you?

Not to anywhere friends or family or counsellors or future loves understand.

To be alone with the dead. To make friends with the dead. To abandon the dead to their nothingness, only to find them with you again when you least expect it. When you least want it.

To have practiced never, ever to cry a lovers name in case some primal urge means you say the name of the dead? To never, ever imagine what your children may look like because they may look like the dead?

I am beginning to understand what acceptance means. This is my story.

My first love died. We were not a couple when he died, we had not seen each other for years. By then, I had fallen in and out of love again; he had a new girlfriend whom, by all accounts, he loved.

But she left him. Fled the country in fact—she could not bear his madness. In some ways, that made her stronger than me, who had always followed him down the rabbit-hole of madness so he would never be alone. And so he was alone when he died.

She and I, we met at his funeral. She had the right to speak a eulogy, words of love and friendship. But the photos of his life that they showed, there were of him and me. Before the cost of living had become so high that his body withered around him, the physical expression of the decay in his mind.

I am the soul left alive with whom he shared his only happy times.

It was me who gave comfort to her that day. We sat on the pier—two women with our lives ahead of us. And yet we both knew he had marked us forever. She needed to know that it wasn’t her fault; that someone had failed before her.

I took comfort knowing that someone had failed after me. Even, and it pains me to write this, that I had done it better, because I had known where his story would end. His friends, his family, they had hadn’t wanted to believe. They had had called me irrational when I cried out for help, when the pressure of seeing him through each day threatened to drag me down. They had preferred to think of him as a young buck prone to bad-decisions, testing his mettle against the world. Not as a young mind breaking under the sheer pressure of its own thoughts.

And now, years later, I still feel like his widow. I don’t believe in soul mates, and if I did I would not think he were mine. If we had had our time together unmarked by madness, perhaps we would have married and had a child, not necessarily in that order, and then divorced.

But he was my first love.

In his madness he endangered my life too many times for me to care as much for it as I perhaps should now—and I spent too many years keeping him alive from one night to the next to ever put him behind me.

He did not kill himself. His body merely gave way. We were 29.

His final act, his death, has always seemed a message meant for me. Through our years together, I rocked him to sleep countless times when his mind was not strong enough to see through the night. When fearful of his own mortality, he would rave that some day the night would take him and he would not reach 30.

And we had an old joke, the two of us. Marked on the same day every year—and on that date, he went to bed alone. The night took him, and he did not wake again.

So, where does acceptance take you?

It takes you on a journey, back where you were so many times before.

And it leaves you with memory—memory that perhaps one day you will embrace.



Ava Graham Millar is an aspiring writer looking to understand where on earth she went wrong through the written word. An obsessive adventurer with a high tolerance for risk, Ava will go anywhere at any time. She also happens to be an over-qualified workaholic – a former teacher and current consultant. She is new to yoga, and loving it. You can reach her via email or Twitter.



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Assistant Ed: Josie Huang/Ed: Bryonie Wise


{Photo: via Michele on Pinterest}


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