Dear Mikey,

Hey, buddy.

I’ve been meaning to do this for awhile. Something official… something in print, so to speak. But I thought it might end up being lengthy and meandering, so I haven’t really gotten around to it. Decided to go ahead and give it a try.

I hope you don’t mind that I haven’t been a total mess. I just feel like you’re still here, and that even though this is so different and I don’t like it, it’s not the end of the world. Things happen, and life goes on. And a really big part of this feeling is that you were, and surely are, so wonderful and so much fun — it seems wrong turn let that turn into a negative. I want my world to have been brighter because you were here, not darker because you’re gone.

Of course, it’s still early. And it’s not always easy. I’ve had my moments when the tears just spring up, usually at some unexpected time… which is kind of annoying, really, because the things that it seems ought to make me cry often don’t. Or the reaction is delayed. Like last night, at Mom and Dad’s, I was watching the video from right before this last Christmas, when you were behind the camera and recording Zoey helping to hang ornaments on Mom and Dad’s tree. And I could hear you laughing and getting a kick out of the things she was doing and saying; you’d giggle and repeat what she’d just said. Or you’d say “awwww!” It was so nice to hear your voice and to realize how familiar it sounded — it didn’t sound like a stranger’s voice. It just sounded like you, and I could tell I hadn’t forgotten, and I saw again how much you loved your little niece, and it made me kind of happy. Wistful, but still happy.

But when it was over, and I was getting ready to leave, I just got hit by that little wave that sometimes washes over me. That feeling that this really, really just sucks. It is so messed up for you to be gone. I can’t fathom the rest of my life without you. I keep waiting for this to be “fixed.” My mind knows that you’re not coming back, but my heart thinks otherwise, or maybe it’s the other way around. And my feeling that this was somehow meant to happen — that this is for the greater good, in some way I maybe can’t see — hasn’t wavered. I felt it when we were at the hospital and it’s never, ever gone away. But even though I still believe this, it still f-ing sucks that you’re not here. I keep thinking, This is wrong. This is wrong! How can this be happening?

On some level I still don’t believe you’re gone. I hate the word “denial” and I am so afraid that I’m in it. I understand it’s a part of grief. But the thing is, if that’s what this is, that means eventually I’ll come out of it, and I’m afraid the sadness that might be behind it will smoosh me. And my big plan to be better off for having known you will go all to hell.

I like the feeling I have most of the time, even though I miss you so damn much, and it frustrates me inside-out that I can’t see you and hug you and tell you something I know you’ll laugh at and hear you crack up. I can’t watch you interact with Zoey, and when I think about her not remembering you, it just makes me ache, because she will be missing out… But even with all this going on, I feel okay most of the time. I know you are okay, and sometimes I could just swear I sense you nearby. Even right now. I don’t know if it’s wishful thinking. I can’t imagine I honestly have a way of really knowing whether you’re around. Anyway… I hesitate to say I’m in denial, but “on some level I still don’t believe it” sounds frighteningly like denial. Shamefully like denial.

So please don’t ever think I didn’t love you as much as it seemed. I did. I still do. I plan to until I see you again. If I’m not a mess, I don’t know why, but it’s definitely not a reflection of how much I love and miss you.

Almost every night I “think” at you. It’s easiest when I am rocking Zoey to sleep, and the room is dark and quiet and all I can hear is her breathing or sucking her thumb. I can lean back and close my eyes and relax, and “talk” to you in my mind. I used to think I could feel you in the room, but now it doesn’t feel the same, and I don’t know if I was imagining it all along, or if you’ve stopped coming, or if I’ve gotten used to the feeling. Listen to me; I sound like a total wingnut. I’m not a wingnut, just open-minded. So if I’m wrong about this, go easy on me.

I’m sorry if, when I talk to you, I don’t have a whole lot interesting to say. Usually it is just some chit-chat, just checking in with you. Sometimes I have something on my mind I want to unload. I hope you don’t mind that I just kind of yammer for a few minutes. It just feels good to say hi.

Twice since I’ve been doing that, talking to you at night, just in my mind, I’ve had a “flash” of you: a fleeting image. The first time was almost two weeks after you left. I saw you in a comfy black sweatshirt and heard your voice, or a voice, in my head say “Hi.” The second time was this past Sunday, when I saw you carrying Zoey off the otter deck at the zoo. Danny was in front, wearing just what he had worn at the zoo earlier in the day, with the camera over his shoulder; then you, carrying Zoey; and me behind you. Is that for real? Or is that something my hyperactive brain is serving up?

I wish I knew what it was like for you in the hospital. I don’t think about it quite as much anymore, but it still comes up a lot. Did you have any idea what was going to happen? When did it happen? When I was so cold and strange feeling, that Wednesday afternoon, was that all in my mind? Could you hear us talking to you — feel us touching your hands? Was it okay that you couldn’t talk back?

Did anyone come to meet you? Are the animals with you?

I hope it wasn’t scary. I can’t imagine that it would be, so I don’t really worry about that part. Maybe that’s why thinking about you in the hospital feels almost more sweet than sad: You were on the doorstep of heaven, and as much as we miss you, that’s not really such a bad deal for you.

Sometimes I think, wow — some of us are here for decades, even more than a century, but you, you got your work done in 22 years. That’s impressive.

Especially considering that you looked, a lot of the time, like you weren’t doing much. Hehehe. ;) Sorry, but you know as well as I do that it’s the truth!

You know what else worries me? The thought that now, you know everything I think or feel, or all the things I wish I could do or say that I shouldn’t, and that you could be upset with me or disappointed in me. That said, if I need improvement, please try to help me see how to fix whatever the problem is. Or, if that’s not your job, help connect me with someone who can help me with a little guidance. Because sometimes I know I need some work, but I’m not sure how to change certain things, or don’t feel strong enough.

I also worry a bit that on the other side, we aren’t as important to each other anymore, and that we don’t have these relationships in the same way. That we won’t be siblings anymore, that Zoey won’t be my daughter and Mom and Dad won’t be my parents and Danny won’t be my husband; that we’ll just be a bunch of spirits who know each other well and then we’ll take new assignments and move on from each other. This bothers me a lot.

Well… I’ve got to go rock my little urchin to sleep… or try to. I miss you, and I love you so much. And you’re welcome in my house or my dreams anytime at all.

I love you,