There is a billboard on I-10 near the airport advertising a new TV show. In 10-foot tall letters it calls out "Designated Survivor". I see that billboard a few times a week and I always think the same thing. What a poetic term for the worst case scenario.
I have been thinking about the words of loss a lot, related to the legalese that I have had to parse through. We are very good at putting words on loss, on death. We dance around it without actually saying it. It makes us feels better. It makes me feel better. Better to refer tangentially to something than to come right out and say it. Better to soften the blow than to reignite a dulled pain.
The county medical examiner closed Melissa and Matthew's case last week. Getting that phone call was extremely difficult for a lot of reasons, the most significant of which was that in the eyes of the State of Arizona they are officially gone. After two and a half months the powers that be have dropped the flag on the process of deconstructing their lives through paperwork.
Each milestone on this journey carries it's own superstitions. I have a mental block on transferring her phone number over to a less expensive plan because I have an irrational fear that I may lose custody of her number or otherwise miss a call from her. (Why would she call her own phone?) The county closing the medical report carries similar portent; they have been bureaucratically taken from the physical world. Frankly, I hate it. I do not want to accept it because it means that I have to get on to the businesses of insurance, social security, and reconciling her estate.
It was not supposed to be like this. This time was supposed to be our renaissance, a time of awakening as we became parents and discovered the greater depths of our lives together. Instead I am left to discover those depths through different means. The love is still there, and will always be there. It is not an unrequited love, but it requires greater searching to achieve equal levels emotional understanding and satisfaction. It requires an unconditional love and a sympathetic eye towards the world, towards the harder parts of human nature. I need to remain pliable, ductile, to harshities of the modern world.
As I work through the red tape of death I daily come across words and phrases like 'designated survivor'. They are the 'predeceased'. Their's was a 'mutual disaster'. I am a 'relict' of Melissa. It is this last term that carries so many hidden meanings for me. I have started the at times grim, at times celebratory business of going through her things. I am a relict going through her relics. It is very slow going, simply because it is heavy and sad. There are bright moments, like discovering the shade of her hair color was 'Brilliant Copper'. There will always be bright moments, they are the things that make the days worthwhile. Little discoveries, like her habit of using cough drop wrappers for bookmarks, are part of what get me out of bed each day. I will be discovering her secrets for the rest of my days.
I do not mean for this to be an overly depressed or dark column. Rather my thoughts today, I think, are an extension of the question 'why her and not me?'. Because it was her and not me, I have to take on, have to accept, the mantle of the 'designated survivor'. I must pick up where she left off, and not let the language get me down. The work of living must go on.