At my partner's memorial service, my sister-in-law's husband spoke about how my partner had spent hours piecing together songs for his sister, carefully cultivating in her a love for his music, and hand writing the names of songs and bands onto the paper inserts of tapes. On their first date, the love of this music helped my partner's sister connect with the man she would marry.
Six weeks after his death, I see my partner everywhere. In every new situation and location throughout my days, I see him there in the times we shared. 18 years together just wasn't enough. When I stumble upon one memory that brings on a landslide of them, it is like a mixed tape we made together. I play back the emotions shared, the color, the scene. At our Thanksgiving three weeks ago, I saw him there answering the door to welcome cousins, declaring the turkey complete, cutting and serving, making sure everyone had a drink, leading a scavenger hunt for all the children, and washing dishes while also entertaining. Making our big bed in the morning, I think of purchasing the cozy bed, picking out bedding with him, cuddling our babies together there, how he corrected my middle-of-the-night lyrics as I soothed a newborn, of how he had to sleep alone sitting upright for months of coughing, of how he was then too sick even to sleep sitting in bed, of how he won't ever sleep in his beloved bed again, of how deeply I miss him. These are mixed tapes that play in my mind. I watch them play from beginning to end, varying in length, and I sometimes choose to pause them so I can back step into the present moment.
Moving back into gratitude and finding the silver lining, I feel so thankful to have had the opportunity to create these memories with my partner. I am thankful for the easy times and hard times. I am thankful for working through thickness of relationship to get to a lighter place of being together. I am thankful for how we taught each other how to dig deep, to grow together, and be present for each other. I am thankful we chose to bring three children into our world, to grow together to raise them lovingly and patiently and responsibly. I am thankful for the home we made together, for this foundation from which I am able to carry on for our family. I am thankful for these mixed tapes of memories I get to hold for as long as I choose.