It’s October- the time for an onslaught of pink and awareness to get those Tata’s checked. Signs show up everywhere, from the supermarket to magazines, all in support of a Pink October.
Yet, I had forgotten what Pink had stood for.
somehow it had slipped my mind that October was for breast cancer awareness, despite thinking of her everyday. My best friend that lost her life to breast cancer. The same one that I would wear pink for, rally behind, take to the local Relay for Life (despite her opposition to publicly talk about her struggles). The same friend who wanted pink hair when it grew back in and dreamed of many relays to come.
Together we wore pink for only two years and hoped that her stage 4 wouldn’t take her.
and yet, here we are again, at the third October after her diagnosis. The Pink-ness abounds with renewed hope like it does every year, but this year with a special meaning. One I wish I didn’t learn the hard way.
All I have are the memories
Not a day goes by that I don’t wish I could hear her voice again. Hear her sing lullabies to my kids. Hear her fuss at me for something stupid. The simple day to day conversations that we normally take for granted are now but a fond memory.
Isn’t that the funny part?
Your brain still works, and you can see and hear them, but they aren’t really there.
And your brain tries to remember so much after someone passes away. What they smelt like, how they had a crooked smile and a gleam in their eye. The funny jokes they would share and the wrinkled hands graced with age. Maybe the hardest part is trying to explain it to someone else. You can see the memory in your head, but words just don’t do the memory justice. You try to share and you fumble.
Is this memory really real? Or is this a dream? Because even though you know they are gone, sometimes your brain likes to trick you.
And I have so many memories of her. Good ones and bad ones, silly ones that still make me laugh, and ones that make me cry. Ones that I desperately wish I could share but I don’t know how to- words don’t quite do it justice.
Sometimes I think about the past
Last October, and in the days and weeks after her death, I kept her phone nearby. Maybe there was a video I hadn’t seen. Or a picture I had missed. Maybe if I read her texts over and over and over again it would feel like she was still here. Maybe she had left some hidden message or a token to remember her by that I would miss.
So I snooped on a dead person. Shamelessly.
Looking for the one picture that would make me feel like I hadn’t failed. Searching for the message that would make me feel better. Trying to find that missing piece that would make it easier to accept that she was really gone.
What was weird about the whole thing was how ‘normal’ it was to feel like this. The regret of not doing more. The questions left unanswered and the desire to find that missing piece. The counselor said it was ok to snoop, in fact, he said to keep her pictures safe and to take more pictures of this year as time moves on without her. Pictures of her house, just the way she left it. The kitchen always clean because it bothered her when dishes were left in the sink. Pictures of her favorite jasmine plant, ones that she would never smell again. Pictures of her grandchildren, coming into this world never knowing her physical touch.
And then the pictures of her house empty, neglected months after her death as we finalized her estate. Shoes that wouldn’t be worn again, clothes she didn’t need. The mail piled high because She was no longer here.
Why Didn’t I take more Pictures before she died?
It’s weird looking back, especially because I know that I was always ‘too busy’ to get together for a family photoshoot.
Or maybe it was the money?
The pimple I had on my face and the bags under my eyes?
But really, what was the excuse?
Now that I think back I can’t even remember the why, only the regret that I didn’t do more to capture her life. Our life. The fun we had and the memories we shared. The late Uno nights and the way she loved her children. How she enjoyed decorating for the holidays and staying up late watching Hallmark Movies.
Somehow I had convinced myself that the limited pictures we took was enough. And that I didn’t need to be in them, convinced that capturing the moment through my eyes would be sufficient for those late nights in the future when the opportunities for more pictures were forever gone.
What was once a vibrant life, is now just a collection of physical and digital things
Things that seem trivial in the day to day moments, but are so important after death are what I cling to now. Memories that were once fresh in my mind are slowly fading away. Just last October I was wearing Pink and hoping beyond hope that she had 6 months to live and this October I forgot it was time for Breast Cancer Awareness.
And I hold onto those memories, now supplemented with pictures and videos and the emails she never deleted, the amazon purchases she never completed, the mail she never read.
No more silly videos to be made, no more talks over drinks, No more Uno into the late hours of the night. Just new memories and pictures without her in them.
The pictures that would make us sad in the months after her death have become the ones that we cherish as time goes on. These are pictures that help to bring up a memory that had slipped your mind, the ones that make you smile and laugh at the person you had the privilege to know.
It’s the first October she won’t celebrate
But here we are again, October. And I am reminded of her life in a new way. It’s almost a regret, but not quite. Instead, it’s a silent reminder to be more present in the moment.
Laugh at the funny jokes, stay up late when friends come to town, take the kids to the park when I’m too tired to think instead of being wrapped up in my own bubble.
And please, I remind myself, take more pictures.
Like taking pictures of that friend in Chemo, snapping a silly selfie with no plans to share, and pictures of strangers doing good things for others so faith in humanity is restored.
No matter is my hair is messy, the house is mess, the kids have stains on their shirts…
I take the picture anyway.
Because one day, when I wake up in a panic, I don’t want to check my deleted pictures looking for the ones I should have kept. I don’t want to wish that I had something more. I don’t want the perfect Instagram ones, or the angles with good lighting. There are no poses. No presets. No planned sets and props.
In a way, she gave me a gift and it’s one that I plan to cherish.
It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month and now I take more pictures.