I rarely post personal essays these days – there are simply too many other things to write about grief, love, and showing up for ourselves and each other. But it’s July, and July is death-month, and I’ve been cutting yellow roses from the front yard, and this essay from year seven keeps swirling in my mind. So here it is – my death-anniversary post from back in 2016. Still one yellow rose on my table.
I drove the car over to be worked on again. Walking back, in my short jean skirt, my cute hat, cold in the chilly early morning when I had already been up for four hours. Listening to warren zevon sing over and over again. Feeling it. I am walking, looking at the sky, the trees. I pick up a broken crow feather, knowing it is not mine, but I carry it anyway. I turn down a street when instructed by that inner whatever it is that tells me things sometimes. I come around the corner, asking you to show me something now.
My eyes land on one perfect, beautiful yellow rose. And my eyes, my inner eyes light immediately on two images, one image, one sound, both image, both sound, of me, scattering roses on your death day, there at the river, yellow roses – no, I did not see that until just now, this moment. On the walk, I saw – the yellow rose I kept, kept back from that bouquet of 12 I bought at whole foods on my way to the river, not on the anniversary, but so soon after, so soon after you died. That one yellow rose atop the red formica table in that cold gray kitchen on danforth street.
I see that rose, that one yellow rose, and I see-hear us, see-hear you, on the rocks at the lobster pound, telling me again, again and again, the story of the young woman who died there, running the rocks, who slipped and fell and hit her head while running the rocks. How her family scattered roses every year. You told me that story so many times, so many times, though each time, you thought it was the first.
My mind lit on that single yellow rose, and you on the rocks, and now me, on that bridge, scattering yellow roses into the water. One on the bridge, then 10 more at the spot where you died.
And here, 7 years later, I come around the corner, catch the sight of one single yellow rose, and hear you say, plain and clear as day – I brought you to a place filled with roses. What more can you ask?
I remember scattering red roses, this time on the one year date, your ashes swirling around my ankles, as your mother one sister and your nephew stood along the shore.
I should not have survived your death, Matt. You are here, and not here, and always, running under the surface of things, my reason for writing, my reason for love, one hand on my heart, the heart of the person I was, back then, in that water that day. On the bridge. One yellow rose on a red table.
At the end of a podcast, the interviewer says to me – so you lived this. And as you’re sitting here now, you have this devilish glint in your eyes. You’re happy. How does that self survive?
I think I survived because I let myself go dark. Because I stayed dark for so very long. Because I let myself. Not knowing I’d come back.