The people in our lives who love us are a gift to us. We don’t know how long we will have them for, and we should always make sure that they know how much they mean to us. In some cases, we lose them very suddenly, like I did my twin when he was killed by a drunk driver. In others, the loss is expected, but no less painful—as it was with Ellie and Gee.
These people are not us—they were not given to us, nor are they really taken from us. As long as we remember them and honor their memories, they will always be with us. In that way, they will never really be gone from our lives. If we remember the lessons that they taught us, by being part of our lives, then, they will live on through us in many ways—still touching our lives long after they have departed.
Some of them will have mostly good memories associated with them. Others, because of their choices and actions or the events of our lives, will have both good and bad memories associated with them. My advice is to forgive the bad memories and concentrate on the good ones. Keep the joy and happiness they brought into your life alive, and let the rest go.
That is what I have done for Ellie. I choose not to remember her as the drug-addicted alcoholic she has become, but as the beautiful, strong, smart and stubborn woman that loved me, and as the amazing young woman that was my good friend before that. I will always remember the joy and happiness that the time I spent with Ellie brought me.
This includes all the time I spent with her when she was younger because I was asked to be her friend, mentor, guardian and confidante—those days will always be important to me. The months I spent teaching her how to drive—given my love of driving—will always be cherished. Taking her out for her birthday—like the first time she ever went to Cracker Barrel—was something I loved to do—because she has always been special to me.
Remembering how Ellie would steal my polar fleece and then curl up, like an adorable ginger-haired cat, on the companionway of s/v Pretty Gee and fall asleep in the sun—smarter than the rest of my crew—knowing she would not get splashed while curled up in that warm, sunny and dry location is something I will think back upon and smile about. She was my friend back then with no doubts about how beautiful, smart, strong or capable she was—those all came later.
Remembering the smile on her face when I woke her in the mornings last summer with a treat of my snack sized cheesecakes or her favorite iced coffee is something that I will always love. It was one of the things I did because of how happy I knew it made her—and because I loved to see her happy. Remembering how she laughed when she was cleaning the green slime out of her family’s swimming pool and asking me to not let her fall in makes me smile. All I’ve ever really wanted for my beautiful Ellie is for her is to see her smile and want her to be happy, loved, safe and successful.
Most of all, the brief week she and I talked about our future together—where she told me she loved me and said “Sarangheyo” to me, and she told me how she adored Asians with freckles—will always be some of the happiest moments of my life. I would still marry Ellie, as I asked her last summer, but I am fairly sure she is lost to her addictions—and that the woman who loved me no longer exists.
Likewise, I will remember the times I spent with Gee—doing the mundane, daily life things like cooking for her or listening to her talk about her music. I would rather remember these simple memories rather than the last days of her life—with her in the hospital and stuck with needles, tubes and machines that were there to try and keep her barely alive. Her sense of humor, her quick wit, her sense of compassion and grace will always be there, whenever I think of my beloved wife Gee.
The memories of our first long cross-country road trip, when I moved Gee to Seattle so she could attend grad school out there are forever etched in the bedrock of my mind. In many ways, it was that long trip, spending so much time with each other, where Gee and I really learned that we loved each other and it was on that trip that we got engaged.
Looking back and remembering how Gee would row the little dinghy that she bought me as a Valentine’s Day gift in giant circles on Lake Burke and Lake Accotink will always bring a laugh to my lips.
I will miss them all…but they will always be a part of my life, because I choose to honor them and remember them. And, I will still pray for Ellie every day, as I have for the past nine months. Unlike the others, Ellie might still yet live. Part of me hopes that my beautiful Ellie still survives, somewhere beneath her addictions—mainly because I can not really believe that someone so smart, stubborn, strong, brave and beautiful could succumb to her addictions. She, like Gee, David, Shelley and the others I have lost over the years, is someone I love very much and always will.
May God watch over my beloved Ellie. God bless her and protect her, even from herself. May God grant her the strength, courage, and will to fight her illness and return to being her true self. May God grant her the wisdom to see the truth—both about her illness and about us.