The “firsts” are the most significant times in any journey. The first words, the first laughs, the first nights out are so incredibly memorable. But the first times without those joys can be equally memorable for their hollowness and sadness.
My life’s journey has now been intertwined with grief. I’m slowly realizing that this new normal is so radically different and scary. I’ve been journeying through the first set of months without my best friend. Already I have been experiencing the rounds of “firsts.” The first disco that he wasn’t at, to most recently the first Dyngus Day where we didn’t celebrate. I’ve been reminded through the power of social media of the incredible moments we have shared. Now begins the sting of the “firsts” without him. What is even more painstaking is knowing that these moments become the routine. There won’t just be one time without him, but many more to follow. Time will fly, as it does, and the distance of times grows until a new and different life is formed.
I can only imagine that time is like the tides that wash away footprints in sand. Suddenly, my life will now become the memories of times with him and not the excitement of looking forward to the next crazy antic we will get into. But as the distance in time grows those memories do not lose their importance, or their power. In fact, their importance and their power grow.
The most recent “first” without my friend was surprisingly bearable. I say that because it seems that the littlest moment can spark a memory and dominate my mind and my heart with a swirl of emotions. Yet, this time, a bigger more special day came around and I was okay. I wasn’t thrilled by any means, but I feel I was able to look at the day and the many years we celebrated together and be happy for those times we did have.
I imagine that the “firsts” are the toughest, but that isn’t to underestimate the power of memories and what will sting years from now. Maybe as I start a family and my kids not having the “uncle” who isn’t biologically theirs but a friend so close that they wouldn’t know the difference. I imagine we would grow up to be those old guys who get a table each morning at a coffee shop once we’ve retired, drinking coffee and talking about the same things over and over.
I’ll be an uncle myself in a few weeks and I remember how great he was with his nieces. I want so badly to get his advice, seeing as even the thought of holding a newborn terrifies me. He’d probably tell me that I’ll get used to it and it becomes natural, but to keep a beer in the fridge when I babysit.
The “firsts” without him are just as heartbreaking as the “firsts” that won’t exist. I’m sad about that, but I’m reminded to be grateful and happy for the “firsts” that did. The first prank we pulled at a play practice, that set the script for many more to follow. Our first batch of failed plans, that led to routines of car rides to nowhere that were somehow better than when plans did work out. The first set of duo outfits and trips to Amvets that set the bar high for the next shin dig we would attend as “The Matt’s.” The first argument that helped us both understand how very different, yet oddly similar we were.
I have tried to look at those wonderful “firsts” and what they lead to, because as I deal with a new set of “firsts”, they allow me to take a deep breath, and realize that I am managing. Whether I feel like I’m falling apart or barely getting by, I am somehow getting through each day and I’m waking up with the intentions that I have one more day in the books of healing and hope. I have something that is worth grieving over, but I have something that is worth celebrating and cherishing for the many “firsts” that still await me.
The “firsts” of any relationship define how it evolves. They help get through the bumpy times, see through the dark times and bear the heavy times. Most of all, they help you understand that through uncertainty and doubt, and sorrow and anger, there is something beautiful and authentic that not even grief can tarnish.