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I’ve started and stopped this entry so many times in recent weeks — sometimes on this blog, occasionally on paper, but usually in my head. As it turns out, what I want to say is no clearer now than it has been for a while. I thought about not bothering with a post at all. No one is looking for one, waiting for one, and I am not obligated to write one.

Except that I am obligated — to myself. So much has happened in the past twelve months, and I am not comfortable ignoring it, despite not knowing how to say what I want to say.

So I’ll start here.

Tomorrow is Feb. 1, 2007. One year since everything turned upside down. Tomorrow night will mark the anniversary of the worst night I’ve ever had. The night Mike was in the ICU was absolutely the hardest, most awful night of my life. I was home, with my husband, and my daughter, going through the same routines we always go through, except I was primed for the phone to ring. Any moment, he could slip away, and the phone — or the doorbell — would ring. Sitting in Zoey’s rocking chair, reading books, putting her to bed, sliding underneath my own covers, all felt so strange. Thank God for routines like this, because they force you to stay in the present when your mind has every reason to whisk you away to somewhere far worse.

That night, I did not sleep well. I’m sure I woke up over and over. In one dream — the only one I remember, and that, only vaguely — the doorbell rang in the night, and I knew he was gone.

No matter how often I’ve replayed that entire 24 hours — and, believe me, it has been frequent, unbearable at times — the replay almost always ends with relief. Because it was only one night. Some families wait for days, weeks, even years. But it was fast, it was peaceful, we could all say goodbye… and when it was over we could come out of there and be done with the place. For now, anyway, I suppose. I don’t know if I, or anyone else in the family, could have handled any more of the waiting. In my memory, the waiting ranks as high on the misery scale as the moment I heard we had lost him.

So, I thank God the waiting is over. And thank God for Zoey and her need for routines. Two blessings in completely unexpected places. There was more to come.

Very shortly after he died — VERY shortly, and in fact, I seem to recall sort of thinking about it as we waited — I decided that since he was such a source of love and laughter in life, I would just refuse to let him become a source of sadness after his death. It almost seemed insulting to think of him any other way. It would not do him justice and it would not do me much good, either. It was a conscious decision that continued to gel. I think the first time I wrote about it was in a post on this blog on Feb. 11, the day I created it.

To be honest, I assumed that this decision wouldn’t pack much punch, that I wouldn’t have that much control over the grief. Well, obviously, that’s true — we don’t have a lot of control over it. At least, it feels that way. But that choice has been a huge influence, and I think I can honestly say that despite many sad days and dark moods and awful nights, I still think of him and smile. I look at his picture and I smile. I remember funny things and I crack up. And to be able to think of him with that familiar warmth and amusement has been worth everything. I get sad thinking of the circumstances, but I never get sad thinking of him.

During the first few weeks, I’d try to connect with him in the evenings, as I rocked Zoey to sleep. And many times, it felt like he was there. After a while, that went away; I wouldn’t try as hard or as often, and I would end up just hoping that he heard me. But although that sense of connection has fizzled, I have never felt like he is gone.

Believe me, I’ve been waiting to feel it. There was one day, last spring, when I looked at a photo of him and had the awful sense that he was someone I used to know. But that hasn’t happened since. It feels like I just saw him not too long ago. I so rarely feel like I just have to have a hug, or that I would give anything for a conversation with him — because it just doesn’t feel like it’s been that long.

I figure he is just staying close by. I don’t have to see him or hear him. I don’t need to have strange goings-on to make me wonder. I love those things, but I don’t need them, because he just seems so close.

The best way I can explain it is to compare it to the way you keep track of who is around you, even when you’re not paying attention. It’s the same sense that tells you who is home with you, even though you aren’t consciously thinking about it. It’s the same sense that tells you someone has entered the room behind you, and you turn around and sure enough, there they are. I’m sure if I could turn around and see him, there he would be.

And after so many months of being lifted, carried, and comforted, in the most unexpected ways, I’ve come to think the same about God. I don’t need to see him. I don’t need to hear him. I know he’s here, because I could not have survived this year without him. If I could turn around and see him, there he would be.

And I’m so grateful to him for being so patient with me, and for the small circle of incredibly warm and understanding people he has woven into my life. I’m so grateful to have a family open enough to talk about these things without judgment. A family that knows the same Mike I knew. I’m so grateful for the people who never try to make grief into a contest, or try to assign me a rank in some kind of hierarchy. Losing one’s only brother is not just losing a buddy; it’s losing the only other person who sees the family the way you do, shares the same childhood memories you do, and was there at times when no one else was.

Most of all I am grateful to Mikey for continuing, somewhere, to be the same wonderful Mikey he has always been.

I love you, Mikey.

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We just spent the past hour cleaning our bedroom. We haven’t done this in a while — not thoroughly. It turns out that at some point, when we were not looking, possibly one day while we were making up reasons to go to Target, a dust storm blew through our room. Actually, maybe it happened more than once. Maybe every time we’ve gone anywhere. So, we start sifting through the stuff in our room — piles of clothes that were only worn for a short time and were too clean for the hamper but too dirty to be put away, books and magazines and receipts on and beside the bedside tables — and we find dust. SO much dust. As we were cleaning, my eyes started to feel prickly, and our noses started to run. We didn’t realize we are such disgusting people.