Memories seep in like a cool breeze. At first the breeze touches your hair, caresses your skin, and the chill it catches you off guard. Memories are like that, they catch you off guard. Much like love, when you are falling you don’t realize you’ve fallen until that one moment when his smile catches yours. I’ll never understand why Charlie chose me to call his own, in my opinion I am more of a mess than a prize. Something you walk by and leave for the next guy. Charlie would often tell me “AJ you are bigger than you can imagine, you are the spark that lights up the room.” I would simply smile and walk away. His brown eyes, god those eyes would meet mine and he would say “I mean it kid, I mean it.”
I have been caught up in a cancer scare and trying to get my feet on solid ground, so caught up that I almost forgot that today he would have been 43. Charlie loved celebrating birthdays as much as I do and I almost forgot his. Then again with time his being gone has gotten easier and I have learned to live without him at my side. On the day of my surgery I could feel Charlie around me and as I went under I was certain that I heard his voice. His voice is etched in my memory and the way he whispered into my ear late at night, those moments are something I cherish. Surprisingly I’ve come to find peace in the goodbye and those memories bring me comfort.
I can still hear the squeak of the chapel doors and the way the covering on the pew felt against my wool tights. The way the room felt, how the light flickered through the stain glass, and how the sunlight bounced off the cobalt blue casket. I held his hand for the longest time and talked to him for what seemed like hours. Part of me believed if I held his hand long enough I could will him back to life, in my heart I knew it wasn’t possible, yet I held on. As I held his hand I looked at all of the mementos that were placed inside, there was barely any room for him, and in that moment I knew he was being sent off with more love than one soul could handle.
Love is what I felt when I followed the casket down the isle, the church was standing room only and I was amazed at how many lives he touched. I took my place and waited for the Pastor to give me my queue. As I walked up to the Pulpit I dug deep and face the crowed, I did the last thing I could do for him, I sent Charlie off with one hell of a Eulogy. That was the last thing I could do. Hymns were song, prayers read, stories were told, and a video was shown, this was how we celebrated his life.
The tiny stone church stood proudly in the distance, a path to the grave site was shoveled, tents set up and men holding metal trays filled with shots of whiskey greeted us. Each guest grabbed one, I stayed behind with the pallbearers and waited for the guests to take their spots. The funeral director gave us the queue, they carried his casket on their shoulders and I walked in front leading him to his final resting place. Charlie’s father raised his glass, made a toast, took the shot, and slammed the empty glass on the lid. His brothers did the same, followed by his Mother, grandparents, and then it was my turn. Overcome by emotion, I had nothing witty to say, so I just bawled, drank the shot and slammed the empty glass on the lid. I will never forget the sound it made, the heavy clunk and then a clink as it hit another glass.
His life was bigger than his death, he had so many dreams and had done so much in such a short period of time. I was lucky enough to be a dot on his timeline. I was lucky enough to know what true love feels like and I was lucky enough to be loved by someone who loved me until he took his final breath. The only thing I can do in return is to learn how to grow and move on from it. I know with all of my heart that Charlie would want me to move on and to live the best life possible.
I have no doubt that I would have thrown him the best 43rd birthday party known to man. Filled with friends, family, food, and of course whiskey. Then again I know Charlie would have preferred an evening playing board games with friends over a lavish shindig. Like the previous two years there will not be a party, instead, I will blow out a single candle on a lemon cupcake and whisper “Happy Birthday Charlie” with the muppet like dog by my side.