Last week I got a birthday card from Roxy, five months after my birthday, three months after her death. Earlier that day, at lunch, I had been saying how much I wished I could write about the good memories, the nights we spent eating too much and laughing too hard over the kind of inside jokes that best friends accumulate over nearly a decade of being best friends.
I’m not there yet. It’s still too fresh. Her absence cuts too deep. And while I’d like to look back and smile — and I do! sometimes, I actually do — I can’t enjoy the memory and share it, because I’m distracted by the way her story ends.
The card encapsulates that perfectly, I think, because it’s ridiculous and funny in a way that Roxy appreciated. Which is to say that it’s a giant talking pickle that spouts out awful puns when you open it. But it’s also almost too upsetting for me to look at. Even having it in the house — I keep it next to the program from Roxy’s funeral — is bittersweet. I’m so grateful for this tangible heartfelt message, but its mere existence brings the loss into focus.
And so I’m left with the same hope I mentioned before I got the card, that eventually the sadness won’t be so overwhelming that it dwarfs the joy. One day I’ll be able to blog about Roxy and it won’t be the same mournful dirge. And I’ll appreciate the card for its sense of humor — so distinctly Roxy in my mind — without feeling the lump in my throat that comes from the words inside. I want it to become the kind of reminder that keeps me warm when I’m missing her, and not something I’m almost afraid to touch.
Because eventually the pickle is going to stop talking. That’s maybe the most ridiculous concern I’ve ever had, but the thought of it has made me well up on more than one occasion since I got the card. Once that happens, I’m worried I’ll feel even more alone, left with only the words. They’re good words, and they’re Roxy’s, but I don’t know when they’ll stop feeling like a punch in the gut: “Every year since we’ve met, we both get better and more fabulous. I look forward to who we’ll become and celebrating more birthdays with you.”
At least now, the pickle’s still rattling off puns — “Oh my gherkin, it’s your birthday! Hope you relish every second of it” — so I can smile through the tears. I’m not sure what happens next.