I don’t think about you as much anymore. Wait, that sounds wrong. The way in which you enter and remain in my mind has changed. For a long time, the thought of you would strike me suddenly, it would engulf my mind completely and refuse to leave. I would become strangely paralyzed, unable to go about my day normally. I would mope around in my room, or take walks to the isolated areas of the campus, and maybe sit in a window alone and let my mind wander with possibilities that could have been.
Things are different now. You don’t just arrive into my mind and hold it hostage anymore, you’ve sort of set up camp there. You’re always present in there somewhere, mostly as background music. When something reminds me of you, your face comes into focus, but only for a moment before becoming pixelated and disappearing again. I don’t sulk as much or obsess your incompleteness as often, but make an effort to be around those who laugh more naturally, people whose main worry in life isn’t about how to get out of bed and face a new day but about what to wear to do so.
It’s not like I miss you any less now, I suppose the manner of missing has altered. It used to be a constant ache, but now it’s more of a companionable yearning. I feel more at ease with missing you now than I did before. That’s not to say that I don’t still go through phases in which it all happens in front of my eyes again, fresh and frenzied. That happens too, just not as often as before. At first, I was upset about this, I thought I was beginning to forget about you; there was even this one time when I panicked about not being able to remember what you looked like. But of course, that was ridiculous.
(Even the word ‘ridiculous’ has an entire new range of meanings in my life now. For example, a friend of a friend passed away recently and I heard someone ask someone else, “Is the family dealing with it okay?” and honestly, it took immense self-restraint for me to not burst out laughing and shout out “Are you kidding me?!” Because, honestly, what a RIDICULOUS question to ask. But of course, for ‘normal’ people, that is a perfectly valid query to put forth. To them, it sounds like a question of serious concern. To me, it sounded like a joke. Of course the family is not okay. Nothing about a sudden, young death is ‘okay.’)
I guess what I’m really trying to say is, I think I’ve become a little braver ever since you died nearly 16 months ago. Even when I think about how, when I graduate a couple of months from now, I won’t see you sitting in the audience, watching me receive my diploma like you did 4 years ago when I graduated from high school, I tear up, but only for a few seconds. I don’t let the thought take over my day. I cope. Just like I will on every other occasion in which you won’t be there.
So maybe I’ll add this reason to the long list of answers I’ve been recording to the question of “Why?” Maybe, along with “it was God’s will” or “because the good ones leave early,” I’ll add this to the list. You left to make us stronger, to make us better. If only I could tell you now that we were just fine being weak and average.