Black and Blue, And You

by Rachel Creager Ireland

Dear Richard,

Shortly after you left us, I did a one-day job that involved a lot of hard work. I had to get up early in the morning. I felt bleak and barren and I put on navy sweatpants and a black sweatshirt. Who wears black and blue together? It was awful, but it was appropriate for the job, and it was how I felt. Ever since, whenever I see black and navy together, I think of you.

At one point that day, I got a big splinter, really a wedge-shaped chunk of wood, stuck under my fingernail. It was the ring finger on my left hand. It went halfway down the nail. I looked at it for a moment and pulled it out, and later it healed. The nail didn’t fall off or anything. But every now and then I feel a little tingle there, underneath the nail, and I’ve been feeling it off and on now for three days, since the twenty-seventh anniversary of your death. The tingle makes me think of black and blue, and you.

They say that at this time of year the veil between the worlds is thin, that it’s a good time of year to communicate with the departed. I know you tried to reach through to me after you passed. I heard you whisper I’m sorry in my ear when I was sleeping. I remember once dreaming that you were in sight, trying to say something to me, but I couldn’t hear. I didn’t want to hear. I was pissed at you and refused to listen. Now I wonder what it was you wanted to say.

Maybe you’ve moved on to something beyond, another consciousness altogether, and the Richard I am talking to is truly dead. If that is the case, so be it.

Remember when we first met, and you told me that you had tried to kill yourself, but now you were a completely different person? I never believed that. How could a person change like that? But it turns out that I’ve changed a lot. I never thought I’d be 46, much less a mom, a novelist, a healer. I had no idea how much of my thoughts, my feelings, everything I thought I was, was all a flimsy construction of reused string and ego and other people’s baggage. I couldn’t see all the beauty and forgiveness and love in the world, how every breath and heartbeat is an incredible, magical gift.

You didn’t stick around long enough to see that. You didn’t give yourself the chance to.

Oh Richard, we were only nineteen. We didn’t even know how young we were. We didn’t know how much the world had to offer us, was waiting for us to live into. We didn’t know we could create our own reality, how our choices built the world we lived in. We didn’t know we were free.

Maybe you don’t even remember what it was like to be human. Maybe you are in a state of eternal now, limitless perfection, needing nothing to be done or said or changed in any way. Wherever you are, I hope there is peace for you.

Meanwhile, in the world of the living, there is much work to be done. The soil must be prepared for winter, food laid up for the lean months. Perennials to plant, with hope that they’ll survive to bloom next fall. Sometimes it’s hard for me to work for fruition that far ahead. Who knows if we’ll be here in a year? After you were gone, it took me a while to learn that we have to live in the moment, but as if there will be a future. It’s a paradox, but it’s the only way that works.

If you feel like visiting, drop in, maybe in a dream. It won’t be like before, it’ll be better. We’ll be like old friends, sitting quietly together, catching up. And this time I will listen to you.

Love, Rachel

Brett Johnson took this picture of me, Richard Martin, and Cheryl Stone (now Richardson). Jack Scott is in front.