Hey Jude, don’t make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better

– Hey Jude, The Beatles

How many times has she heard people sing that song? A million. At least a million in the last 10 months. And here I am, drawing inspiration. In her absence, through tears, I’m listening to The Beatles and (probably disgracefully) using a keffiyeh as a tissue.

I wrote a few times when she first got here, giddy and hyped up on a new relationship blossoming. Let me just stop right here and switch gears for a minute.

Dear Jude,

You were perfect for us. PERFECT. I know everyone has expectations about their exchange student, but I really tried not to because I wanted you to be able to be you without that extra burden of living up to being someone you are not. Just because we chose you from the many wonderful options, just because something you wrote on an application months before we read it spoke to us, just because we hoped you’d fit in with us, didn’t mean you actually would. But you did. Expectations or none, you were what we needed.

You are silly and weren’t afraid to make faces. You are funny and quick to joke. You are sassy and sarcastic and kept Steven in his place. You are so much quicker to cuddle than I have ever been, but holding you on my iPad screen today, unable to reach through the glass and touch your hair and pull you close and smell your shampoo was absolutely, painfully, as literal as the metaphor can be: heartbreaking.

I have spent the last week trying to dam the tears and hold my heart shards together and pretend that I’m already over it. But you being gone is worse than any breakup. I know you are not dead, I know you are alive and well, you are happy and healthy and with your family, but in a way I am grieving your loss like you’re gone forever. I know that isn’t true. I know that! I will see you again. But my brain and my heart are unable to communicate, and it physically hurts. The silence when I walk into the house, the missing “hair mice” on the edge of the bathtub, your missing shoes, your room stripped bare. No za’atar on the counter, no shampoo or conditioner for curly hair, no Naked palettes, no easy tears, no songs on repeat, no high school gossip, no more hugs, no more sweet and crazy laughter, no more Lorde sing-a-longs. No, not no more: none for a while. But again, my head knows that – my heart is too busy shoving tears through my eyes and snot through my nose and closing my throat up so I sit here looking at old Instagram pictures and sobbing loudly. I miss you a lot and sucks.

I’ve tried to be strong about it. Before you left, I tried to make it easier for you to go by reminding you about your friends and family waiting for you. I’ve tried to be strong and tell people, “Yeah, Monday sucked, and Tuesday I cried at work, but by Wednesday I felt a lot better.” What a joke. I spent Wednesday through Friday lying to myself. I slept for 15 hours on Saturday. That’s not normal. That’s what sadness looks like. And then today, after we talked and I saw that you were sad too – I saw it in your eyes – I knew I wasn’t alone and I wanted to feel better about that but it just made me start crying all over again.

I know this seems melodramatic and I’ll hopefully be laughing at myself soon. But I know you get it. I said a few months ago as we talked about you leaving soon, “You don’t get to pull away, I’m not going to let you make this easy. You have to feel every emotion all the way until the end so that you cry when you say goodbye.” And we did that. I just didn’t know how much I was going to feel, too, in forcing you to promise me.

I love you. You are my first daughter, my first teenager, and forever, a friend. This house is always open to you. You are a part of my family, and heart. I love you and always will.

Kimbers.

Maybe that says it all.

But what I want to write here, for the world to see, is that part of the reason I’ve tried to seem “okay” is that I didn’t want anyone to see me sad and think, “That looks too hard, I wouldn’t want to host because I don’t want to be that sad when they leave. Look at Kim, she totally broke down.” Yes, I did. I am broken. But I wouldn’t change it for a thing. I will host again, because for each tear I’ve shed, there are a million fantastic memories. If love is a currency, Jude has made me rich. If anything could have convinced me to have a child, it was parenting Jude with Steven. If an experience can be life changing – and I’ve had many life changing experiences – I never expected this experience to be so transformative. This hurts, but it also makes me appreciate every moment I had with her, and I want to chase that feeling, regardless of the pain. I tried to convince myself that I only needed a few days to grieve, but my dear friend reminded me that for each year you are in a relationship, it can take about 3 months to grieve their loss. Yes, she is out there, living and laughing and chasing her dreams, but I am allowing myself to grieve her absence and relish the grief: it is proof that we loved and loved deeply.

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