Though I have missed you, I know you- I know you in ways that were impossible to discover when you were alive. You are no longer framed in the photograph I carried with me on my wedding day. You are the tiny artifacts I find in the seconds of my stresses and struggles- guitar picks, movie tickets, song lyrics and phrases, gorgeous morning runs, the breath and gaps between musical notes. You are strings of prayers hoping for your eternal rest, and YouTube comments thanking you for saved lives and changed perspectives. You are the book the social worker gave Grace and I about the tiny bunny who left his instruments behind for his friends when he left for somewhere better.
Your young soul is too beautiful to contain in a human body, and for that, I respect God.
And for that, I have forgiven him.
When I am dead, I will embrace you, and you’ll laugh at me because I will probably be old, crinkly, and pathetic looking at first, while you’ll be brimming with the youth you took with you. You’ll say, “What happened to you Al?” And then you’ll punch me in the arm, and you’ll have on that gangly smile. We’ll sit somewhere, maybe an old fraying wooden bench, but there won’t be slivers. You’ll tell me what it has been like to see all the miracles on Earth hop-scotching across oceans and rivers, rippling like rainy puddles on pavement. That’s how I imagine it smells wherever you are, cold rain on hot pavement, after the first thunderstorm—how it feels after a long good cry— and that’s what it’ll feel like to see you again: a release from the chest, an expression well-spent.
Then, after you’ve told me all of your stories, of all the people in the world who have thanked you for living, of how much you love them, and about all the card games you play with Granny, you’ll show me the pack of wiener dogs you tend to. By this time, our dog Daisy will be dead, so she’ll have found you, and you’ll have found her a place at the head of your herd of dachshunds. She’ll be queen, and she’ll be proud.
Zach, I knew you before your limbs melted into musical instruments, before cancer cemented them together –back when they freely moved footballs across cold October skies, and hit me with sticks (remember that? I was so mad at you.) I knew you before you had to trudge through all the needles, the long-worded medicines with the Xs and Zs, the sweaty, bare-footed concerts, before first loves and bionic legs, before your future turned into an one-inch space we called the present. And I know you now.
I know your spirit, and your spirit knows mine. I love you, brother. And because of you, I am not afraid to meet you again.