"Sarah and I are on the road today, each carrying material components of the man we love, leaving behind in Houston only those family and friends he treasured. Thank you to everyone who helped us and supported us and sent your love while we were here; it carries us home. ❤️"
This was my Facebook post a year ago. Sarah and I had gone to clear out the apartment. We had another couple of months on the lease but I felt an urgency to gather up Rickie's things and bring them home. A need to circle my arms around everything that was left of him and keep it close.
It's heartbreaking to walk into a place that someone left expecting to return. It wasn't the big things so much; the empty leather chair or the bed he neatly made before he left, a habit he acquired over the years from me. He used to laugh at all my pillows and throws on the bed but he'd long ago gotten used to them and where they went.
It was the grocery list he'd started with just a few items on it, two envelopes labeled for the last months' rent before he retired, a scrap of paper with the name of a song he heard and liked called Always Remember Me.
Family and friends came over, bringing supper for Sarah and I, and comfort by their presence. Sometimes grief is best handled alone but sometimes the face of a loved one is the only thing keeping you going. They instinctively toss out the tiniest of lifelines and you hang on. A hug, a kindness, even a laugh at a memory. They knew when to come and they knew when to leave.
Sarah and I gave away most everything in the apartment, some things to loved ones and a pickup load to the donation center. The things we couldn't part with filled a pickup truck for each of us.
We made arrangements for a final cleaning, locked the door, and left the town I called home for most of my life.
When you lose your longtime partner, the one that understood you the best, the one that you shared the little things and the big things in life with, you don't know how you will go on. But you just get through each moment, each day, each week. And then you realize it's been a year. Family and friends fill that time and you have moments of joy with them. But no one ever fills that space left by your partner.
You talk to them still, sometimes in your head and sometimes out loud. Because they are the only one that knew you, really knew you, as you knew them. You've shared most of your life with them, the memories and the good and bad times you went through. That space they occupied will be forever empty.
You don't try to fill it. You just try to live with it.