That First Year

I wrote earlier this week about losing my friend Marco last year, and his influence in my life. The actual anniversary date was yesterday, and I have been thinking about how losing someone affects you for that first year. It’s different for people, depending on who you lost, how they passed, and quite honestly, how strong of a person you are.

The initial shock of Papi’s passing was tough. He was a young guy really, only 46. He lived life as he wanted to, and he wasn’t always the best decision maker, but 46 is still too damn young. For me it hit because we were close in age, so you think about your own mortality, and it just outright hurt. There really are all the stages of grief like they talk about, you get shock, denial, anger and sadness and more emotions than you can keep track of. I went through so much of that in life, losing parents and family members. It is easy to get lost in your grief, isolate yourself. I kind of had a front row seat to watch how Marco’s death affected his family, since we work together. I saw a lot of pain, grief, shock, tears, and some self-destructive behavior that broke my heart for them, but for Papi too, because if he were just here, none of it would have to happen.

One of the hardest parts of that first year is learning to live without the person you lost. Daily things. Marco was a phone guy. He called his family and friends almost daily, or at least texted daily. He would text his one friend every morning, and for him, that was one of the hardest things. I don’t know if he still does, but he looked at his phone every morning first thing, looking for that text that doesn’t come. Marco and I didn’t communicate daily like that, but I missed, and still miss, his random comments on everything I post on Facebook. He would call the restaurant every morning to talk to his mom. He would have already talked to her, but he did this because it was a part of his “rounds” each day. That phone doesn’t ring at the same time anymore. His family is still learning to live without those things.

That first year is a lot of tears, for sure. They sneak up on you. As time passes it happens a little less, but things will pop up and remind you of your pain. The first year my dad was gone was so awful. Looking back I feel like I cried for a whole year, even though it wasn’t quite like that, I remember a dull ache in my brain and in quiet moments tears would just flow. Trying to be strong for the other people who hurt is exhausting, but you have to keep going. As time passes you notice it a little less, but for that first year and just past the anniversary, it is a tough period.

That first year brings a lot of guilt too. As you move on, and get back to your life, learning to laugh and enjoy life again, you all of a sudden feel guilty. I can tell this has been hitting some of Marco’s people a little. I see them laugh and have a good moment, and it all of a sudden stops. How can I have fun when Marco is gone? It is so unfair to feel that way, but it happens. And of all people, Papi would want them to enjoy their life, live on in a place of joy. That guilt is normal, but so misplaced. You shouldn’t feel bad for the things you can do while you heal, but I know it happens.

That first year is gone now, Papi. I marked it off the calendar, and I promise you things are getting better for all of us, most of us really. We talk about you and laugh more than we cry now, as you would do if it had been one of us. I know you would want us to find happiness and joy, it’s been a slow process, but it is happening. I watch over what I can for you, but you know who needs a little help, so if you could help out however you can from up there, I would appreciate it. We will start this next year and keep moving forward. I won’t lie and say it was an easy year, but it was a year. We will miss you forever, but I am so happy I had you in my life as long as I did. You are with the others I have lost, and I know how much potential there is in that group. You fit right in with them, I am sure.

There was never anyone who Lived, Laughed and Loved like you did, and that first year made me understand that more than ever.

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