Up Copyright © Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios 2009
Today was the last day of school. I eagerly anticipate this day throughout the entire school year. Today, however, I felt terribly sad and lonely. This is the fourth summer that I have approached since Ben died. I guess that I may never enter summer without remembering that summers were difficult for me when my dad and Ben were ill because I juggled caring for both of them. Just as I didn’t get excited about weekends, summer didn’t really represent any kind of freedom or fun, other than being away from the school building. Ben died in August 2015, having spent the summer in the hospital. I still feel twinges of guilt and sadness that I was so angry that, without talking to me first, Ben made the decision to let go his home health aide because he said that I could do everything since I wasn’t teaching. It ended up being only a week before he ended up in respiratory crisis and in the hospital. I don’t like remembering the anger and resentment, though it was an honest part of our experience with ALS. I also remember the days and nights spent at his side in the hospital, when there were terrifying, devastating, frustrating and also many loving moments.
I relate so much to this scene from Up. I like to reminisce about my time with Ben. But, there are times like today, when I want to share the celebration of the end of a school year with him. Like Ellie’s, Ben’s chair is empty. He’s not at home. I’ve gotten better at planning my own adventures, but on days like this I am too keenly aware of being alone.
Every summer has come with melancholy and anxiety, and a regression in grief, but this seems to be the first time I have had a very tearful last day of school. I don’t really know why. I guess I will always be thrown by the unexpected tears and clinging sadness and loneliness. I don’t fight the feelings. I acknowledge them and let myself have the moments. I know that the profound loneliness and loss that I am feeling will fade and I will get back up to speed. I’ll use this time to spiritually commune with Ben, try to work through that difficult summer, and try to balance his absence and presence. Maybe part of my sadness is the change of routine. With school, Ben was part of my structure- I listened to my “Ben playlist” on the way to school every day. I have not firmly organized my next few days. That was probably a mistake. Without structure, I might be able to distract myself, but I might flounder. I’ll have to see how it goes. I’ll try to remind myself that I am going to have new adventures this summer and he will still be with me, just in a different way. That will never be enough, but it is a lot.