Friday, May 6, 2011

A Letter to the Departed

I am taking today off from blogging. Sort of. I'm meeting up with friends for some fun, and I have a ton of stuff to do when I'm not having fun (although the stuff is fun too!). So, in light of all that, I'm stepping away from the computer for the day.

Also, tomorrow it will have been four years since my beloved late mate, John died. To honor his memory, I am reposting the piece I wrote a year ago today. Read it and weep. Seriously.


Took a storm before
my love flowed for you
~C'est La Vie, Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Dear John,

Lately, one of your favorite phrases has been heavy on my mind, "Five years will go by anyway." It's been three years since you left this mortal coil, three years that have at once flown by and stood still. Three years have gone by anyway. I am in awe of the personal growth that I've been through in those three years - I never saw that coming in all of our "life after John" discussions.

One thing that has really impressed me lately is that I have so many friends who wouldn't be part of my life were it not for you. They are friends who, not only have stuck with me through the dark times, but whose friendship has grown deeper in these three years. Timothy is one of those friends. He is, without question, the greatest of those friends. I'm reasonably certain that without the loss of you, our friendship would not have become the shining gem that it is today. We came together in grief, but the tears and laughter we shared were the bond that sealed our friendship. His is such a beautiful, loving, and caring soul. He has more than lived up to his promise to you to be there for me.

I don't know if you made Timothy promise, as you did with me, to not only go on living, but to live well. Either way, he has. We were talking a couple of weeks ago. I said, "You know, Tim... this is going to sound strange... but John's death was the best thing that could have happened to us. His dying launched us. It galvanized us and made us realize that we had so much more living to do, and so much more to offer the world. We wouldn't have become who we are now if he was still around. The rat bastard pushed us!" At this, Tim laughed through his tears, held the phone away from his ear and hollered, "Yeah, J! You pushed us! You hear that?! Fucker!"

Yes, you definitely launched me. I am astounded that something so profoundly sad as your death could bring about so much quintessential good. But, I've learned that sometimes when life takes you through its worst, it's about to give you its best. So it has, because let me tell you, Darlin' Man, if it gets better than this I might just burst. Here's the tricky part, John. I think this will be my last letter to you for a long while, years maybe. I hope you understand. I think you would.

See, the thing is, I no longer use your death as a jumping off point. For a while I needed to, I needed that pivotal moment in time to say, "here is where I became aware of my strength, here is where I found my road." I needed something to remind me that if I got through that, I can get through anything. For quite a while, I measured time in, "that happened when John was still alive" or "that happened after John died." Today, I think I've evolved to the extent that I no longer need to wear that badge of courage. I've sort of become my own woman, and I'm no longer "the girl who survived the great loss." Does that make sense? I'm not sure I'm saying it well. It doesn't mean I miss you any less, and it doesn't at all make the importance of you in my life any less.

This brings me to Steve. Odd as it is, I feel it needs to be said. Maybe I'm the only one who needs that, but hey... it's my life, huh? It's a strange feeling, but I often wish that you and Steve had met somehow. He would have been such a wonderful friend for you to have, and I know he would have liked your spirit. You know... he waited for me for 14 years. He didn't know he was waiting for me, just that he was waiting for the right woman to come along. When you told me there was another out there for me, someone who would give me everything you couldn't, someone I needed to love, I didn't believe you. Hell, I didn't want to believe you! But you described Steve so precisely. I think that's why, when I met him, I felt that I was saying hello to someone I already knew. Ah, John... my heart is so full.

I've been putting all my effort into art. You were right. Rat Bastard... were you ever wrong?! There is so much more depth to my abilities than I allowed, or was even willing to see. It's another part of my life that has grown and blossomed, weed-like, in the past three years. I would have been lost without it.

These three years have been quite a banquet (as life should be), and though I often feel like a beggar at the feast, I enjoy it nonetheless. I know it's not what either of us planned on. It definitely isn't how I expected things to turn out when I first met you 12 years ago. For sure it isn't what I expected when I lost you three years ago. But as with any mélange, different flavors come out at different times. Some flavors linger, some don't. The ripe, piquant flavor of knowing you in my life is, and ever will be, tempered with the bittersweet of saying goodbye. The honor was mine. Thank you.


I may not have gone where I intended to go,
but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.
~Douglas Adams

John P. Johnson
24 September 1960 - 7 May 2007


  1. Beautiful post, Barb - and I can identify with it so much. I recently lost my husband (technically my ex-husband) and although the circumstances surrounding our split and his subsequent death were very difficult, it was also a sort of launching point for me. I never knew how strong I really was. Two years ago today was when I kicked him out and reclaimed my life (as I just posted about) and it's been a rollercoaster, to say the least. But I know that he's at peace now.

    *hugs* to you.

  2. Just beautiful. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. i remember reading this the first time . . . and it still makes me smile and cry . . . thanks barb.

  4. Thank you for sharing this painful, yet truly inspirational, piece of your heart and your life. What a beautiful reminder it serves. The reminder that light can come out of the darkness, that growth can come from loss.

    I am inspired by your ability to take risks and to push yourself when the road is not easy. It is nice to be here in the place you are now, to see how far you have come. You give me hope. Thank you.

  5. Thank you all.

    And you, Hands Free, if what I've been through and my ability to regurgitate the soul gunk here is an inspiration, then it is all worthwhile.


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