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It's been two years tonight since that beautiful blue moon took TBone away, ending his suffering. I don't have words to describe how I'm feeling today, but wanted to share an article someone sent to my husband earlier this month (ironically, it was published on the one-year anniversary of his father's death). I'm sure many of you can relate to the author's words.

Praying for us all,


The River of Memory

by Patti Davis

(daughter of Ronald Reagan)

In the back of my address book, I keep a list of birthdays and anniversaries. Beside it is another column of names and dates—a much shorter list with only the most basic marker of time recorded. These are the dates when loved ones of close friends died. The name next to each date is not that of the dead but of the living—the person who will wake up to a day that feels different from all others and who will feel a little better if someone else remembers too. So I call or e-mail to let them know I do remember.

Not every relationship or friendship is close enough to warrant a gesture of this kind, hence the brevity of the list. But I have a small group of friends who, even if we haven't touched base in a while, do so on those dates.

I am occasionally forgetful about birthdays and wedding anniversaries, despite my list and best intentions. Yet those other anniversaries are ones I don't forget. They are tender and complicated days—ones that nobody wants to go through alone.

As anyone who has lost a loved one knows, we tend to define and measure ourselves around that one point in time—who we were before, who we became after. The loss of a parent, a child, a partner, or a spouse redefines us and does so year after year. It's a strange and haunting alchemy.

That he grew up near a river was one of my father's last enduring memories after Alzheimer's wiped away the others. Because I came to see the river as emblematic of life's currents and death's undertow, I find myself meandering back to that metaphor. I imagine those of us who have been left here to mourn sitting along a riverbank, tossing stones into the water, studying the predictably concentric ripples, and talking freely about the unpredictability of our feelings. The heart always surprises. It's more willing to crack open than we expect it to be. And what floods in is never under our control. We feel isolated in our emotions until someone else listens and says, "Me too."

June 5 was the second anniversary of my father's death. In ways I don't fully understand, the second year was harder than the first. The days leading up to it felt sodden, weighty; tears were always just under the surface of my composure. I didn't ask my mother if this year was more difficult for her—I didn't need to. At the end of May, when I asked what she wanted to do on June 5, she hesitated and said softly, "I don't know. I guess I haven't let myself think about it." Which said to me that she'd been thinking about it a lot.

We did the same thing we'd done the previous year. We went to the Reagan Library and put flowers on my father's grave, stood quietly, each of us lost in our own thoughts. The wind always seems to blow on that hilltop. To some it will sound strange that I feel my father in every gust, hear him in the movement of leaves as the breeze sweeps through the trees. But there are those who know exactly what I'm talking about.

"The second year was harder for me," a friend of mine said. He lost his son to a drug overdose three years ago.

"Why is that?" I asked him, grateful for the wisdom of someone who is farther along this trail than I am.

"The first year it still feels new," he answered. "By the second year, the reality of the loss just sits inside you. The permanence has hit you. It takes you to a deeper, darker place."

He continued, telling me that last year he relived every minute of his son's death—almost torturing himself with the memories but unable to stop. I did remember that last year was particularly hard for him, but I didn't know the details until now. The third year, he said, has been more peaceful.

Another friend lost his mother two days after my father died; she, too, had been ill for years. We spent hours on the phone that June talking—about how death always feels surprising, even when you've been anticipating it. About all the emptiness that's left behind—the places once filled up by a life. My friend also found this second anniversary harder. He'd been looking through photo albums again and again, needing to remember, he said, but knowing he would never forget. I could hear in both our voices that we felt lighter by the time we hung up.

They are lifelines, these conversations—these acknowledgments of what we go through when we miss someone so terribly and know that we have to integrate the loss into our lives. There are things I can talk about with these friends that I wouldn't discuss with my mother because she's living with her own grief, the reality of her loss. It isn't that she and I don't discuss our feelings—we do but it's different. Out of respect, I tread more carefully around the edges of her grief. Like everyone else, I tend to be freer in what I reveal and share with friends.

Death is an awkward subject. It's a language none of us feels fluent in, no matter how much experience we've had. We reach for words and hope they're the right ones. What matters, though, is the effort.

It matters that someone else is thinking about you on a day that might, over time, get easier but will always be heavier than the rest. It matters that a friend shares how he’s gotten through his own sad anniversaries. It's how we look out for one another, help one another across rough terrain. The world moves on; we all know that. But anyone who has lost a loved one knows you never move on from missing that person and marking the day he left.

We want someone else to remember, too, so we're not sitting by that riverbank alone.

JULY 14, 2006

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I know it's been a long time, but two years? I can only imagine the loss you feel having just "found" Terry again. I am SO GLAD you did get your brother back before he was gone.

May the coming years bring smiles in your memories and may the ugliness soften when you remember how it all was at the end.



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Can't believe it's been two years since TBone left us. He is missed on this board by so many. Thank you so very much for your post. I hope it will touch the hearts of so many here that are grieving for their loved ones.

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