In the week before he took his own life, Rick was sure to post this reminder on the half used box of kitchen trash bags we kept in our large kitchen drawer. He wanted me to know that there were more stored above the refrigerator, so I would know I didn't need to buy more. Every time I see that little note when I use a new trash bag, my heart rips... but I can't seem to throw it away.
Tonight, as I wrote a grocery list, I consulted a recipe for sweet potato enchiladas so I knew what I'd need. There at the bottom of the recipe was Rick's handwriting, giving me advice about the meal. "Use flour tortillas - corn ones break," he wrote. And he was right. We always adjusted the recipe to our preference. He knew I often blindly followed the recipe when listing ingredients, so he gave me a reminder.
The simplest words, even if they are about tortillas, fill me with a sadness if they are written in Rick's handwriting. Maybe it's because they are one of the only tangible things left of him. He won't be writing any more notes. He doesn't have a grave site. Just a photo urn with his ashes in my living room, a beautiful pendant made with his ashes, and his handwriting.
After Rick died, I saw his to-do list on our kitchen counter. Some items were crossed off. Others had yet to be completed. He never did the laundry. He never sprayed weed killer. He never mowed the lawn. The list laid on the countertop, a tangible reminder of unfinished tasks. An unfinished day. An unfinished life. I couldn't bring myself to throw away the list from his last day on earth. I always found it strange that he did some mundane things and not others. I always found it strange that he seemed prepared to do them. Like suicide was a snap decision when he realized he just couldn't take it anymore.
Perhaps the thought of wash was just too much. Maybe the weeding seemed too daunting. The straw that broke the camel's back when he was already feeling so hopeless and in despair. I mean, he made lunches. He made them and crossed that off his list just the day before. He made sandwiches for the whole week. They sat in my refrigerator after he died. He made them as though he planned on eating them. But he didn't. His unfinished to-do list showed he tried. He tried to make it work. He tried to do his best. He tried to live. He tried to work. He tried to be okay. And ultimately, he decided he couldn't anymore.
A few days after Rick's death, I tacked the list to the refrigerator and there it stays. I may get rid of it one day, but right now it feels like documentation of his last hours. It feels wrong to toss it in the trash.
Even more than photos of him, Rick's handwriting stirs up emotions. I want to touch each letter he penned in his big, deliberate print. I want to trace the words with my finger and remember all the beautiful and funny notes he wrote to me over the years. I don't want to miss him. But...I want to miss him.