Friday, September 15, 2023

208 weeks, but not a year

Today is kind of a weird thing—the horrible anniversary of Nigel’s death, yet not the anniversary. Maybe that’s just a curiosity, but it’s been on my mind all month.

Most people I’ve known who have lost someone important are keenly aware of this sort of split, mostly because more years than not, such anniversaries fall on different days of the week than when the loss actually happened. The first year or so, I needed to know how many weeks it had been, but now it’s only once a year I pay any attention to that—only In September.

I don’t think it’s possible for most people to forget the date they lost their person, though not all will know or even care about the number of weeks. The only thing that’s universally true about grief journeys is that they’re all unique. I’ve learned that fighting oneself over how and when memories and feelings happen is pointless because they’ll happen anyway, and trying to suppress or ignore them can make things worse: The thoughts and memories can become more intrusive and possibly far more intense.

To me, those feelings and memories are a bit like a cat demanding attention: Give them a little patting, maybe a treat, and they’ll eventually go do their own thing. Ignore them or—worse—try and tell them to be quiet, and they’ll continue to intrude into your awareness. Sometimes giving them that little attention will mean the memories will curl up in your lap, purring contentedly—and they’re less likely to bite and scratch you.

Even under the best scenario, other memories can intrude. Today, after I posted a version of this post on my personal Facebook, I saw a Facebook “Memory” for today, and it turns out that it was four years ago today—September 15, 2019—that Nigel and I broke the news that he had late-stage liver cancer. I know now that it was the second to last public thing we worked on together, the last being his funeral plans. Sometimes I think FB’s “Memories” thing isn’t such a great feature.

Everything about that Friday 208 weeks ago today is seared into my brain—including, even, that it was a Friday. I know that if I try to ignore all that, it’d be all I could think about all day, and I have things to do, and life to live, as always.

So, today—and next Wednesday—I’ll do what I always do on all days with powerful memories attached to them: I’ll honour my past, celebrate those who helped me become who I am today, learn from it all, and carry all of the good stuff and lessons into my future. Nigel was—and still is—the single most important person in my adult life. If my psyche wants me to acknowledge the number of weeks it’s been since I lost Nigel, that seems like a fair request given everything I gained from sharing life with him.

Next year, the fifth anniversary will be back on a Friday (because 2024 is another Leap Year). That might mean that this could well be the last year I’m aware of the number of weeks. However, memories and their triggers are unpredictable, so I can’t know that until next year.

Despite all that, today I brought the recycling bins back from the kerb, fed Leo, did numerous household chores, and took my mother-in-law to to my brother-in-law’s house for dinner—all very ordinary things. That’s because despite what happened 208 weeks ago today—or, one year ago this coming Wednesday—my life continues its very ordinary path.

The point, then, isn’t the horrible anniversary (by weeks or years or any other measure), but, instead, what came before it and what's come since. We’re all the sum of our experiences and memories, and we’re constantly adding to both until we aren’t. Today, I’m merely reminded of how odd the passage of time itself can be. Next week, the actual horrible anniversary, will be day to reflect on everything about it—what it means, how things have changed, and, of course, my memories.

Memories intrude themselves, like they did today. 208 weeks or one year? The result is the same, even if the days and dates are different, and my current life is one of those results. I always remember that, too.

Unusually, this post came before what I posted as a comment on my post on my personal Facebook: It was an edited and shortened version of this blog post. However, when I prepared this post for the blog, I added in other comments I made on Facebook, and added a bit more besides. As far as I can remember, this is the first time my content has intermingled so thoroughly.


Roger Owen Green said...

Calendars are weird. Saturday the 7th of March could be a Saturday, then a Saturday again in 6 or 11 years, depending on leap years.

And not incidentally, sorry for your continuing loss.

Arthur Schenck said...

I was thinking later how weird it would be be if every date was always on the same day of the week every year. Yoside is it's be predictable, downside is it seems like it would be boring that way.

Thanks for the continuing support. It really does make a difference.