One year ago today I watched you take your last breath, a moment I will never forget. For the next several hours, you lay peacefully on the hospice bed while I waited for the couriers to come pick up your body for donation to the UW Medical School. I sat there in the family room with your brother and his wife and the three of us conversed in the most oddly calm manner - a clear combination (at least on my part) of shock, exhaustion and relief. Relief because your fight, and hence our fight, was over. After your body had been removed, I picked up the neck pillow I'd placed under your head the previous night, and was shocked to find it was still warm, after 5+ hours. I carried that pillow around the rest of the day, and kept it in bed with me for weeks. Anything that carried your scent or reminded me of you was hoarded. I obsessed over your recordings and images, tried to locate every bit of you I could find.
A year later, I still think about you every day. I still remember the way you smelled, the way I could get you to laugh at just about anything, the way your head felt cradled in the crook of my neck and chest when you came looking for a hug. I miss the comfort of going to sleep with you beside me, and waking up next to you in the morning. I miss talking shop about kids, acting, theater, film and publishing. I miss debating the merits of a particular novel or play, or a certain childrearing technique. I miss traveling with you, whether it be a road trip or a long vacation to a foreign country. Lord, how I miss your awesome cooking!
Though I believe you are still out there, watching out for the kids and me, I miss having your corporeal energy, your physical presence in my life. Will I ever stop missing you? Perhaps in the years to come, the craving will be less acute. But I don't anticipate living a single day and not thinking about you, about us, for at least a few minutes. We shared a formative portion of our lives, and I'm profoundly honored and proud to have been your partner, friend, confidant and lover for the 20 years we were together.
You know how the last year has been for us. You know my dad followed your exit at the end of May. You know the city flooded our bedrooms with raw sewage and the subs cleaning the furnace burned down the house. Any one of those events would have been much more tolerable with you at my side, but to face all of them in concert without you was more than I thought I could bear.
But I did.
You see, losing you brought out an inner strength I thought came from you. But it turns out it was within me all the time. Losing you made me strong enough to face these other disasters, to protect our children and soldier on with them. If there's anything positive I can take away from the loss of my high school sweetheart, it's the realization that I am stronger and more capable than I ever thought possible.
All this being said, here we are a year later... and I am extremely positive looking forward. The immediate pain I felt from having you ripped away from me and from the kids has dulled with time, and will continue to do so. I have dated, but have found I don't need to tie my identity to a relationship - so now I'm concentrating on the kids and the business. I continue to work with the theater group you were instrumental in introducing me to. I continue making strides toward a return to film, which you so ardently supported before your passing (and for which I will be eternally grateful). I found I hadn't lost my camera chops - so theory still serves me, even though I was technologically not up-to-speed. Some of my creativity has come back. I'm returning to a semblance of balance.
Really what I mean by all of this is... thank you. Thank you for being in my life for 20 wonderful years. Thank you for giving me two amazing children. Thank you for making me realize my strength and identity are not tied to outside influences. And most of all, thank you for continuing to inspire me (and others) in continuously new and creative ways.
I will always love you, Samantha Kate.