"There's something stronger than death, and that's the presence of those absent in the memory of the living."
Fresh Water for Flowers
We turn the calendar on another year, and find ourselves 11 years further along the continuum of time since we last saw Matthew. As I drive to work in a car that he never sat in, to a non-profit job he never knew existed, I am struck that so much that surrounds me now, was not in Matthew's world eleven years ago. I listen to music not composed when he was alive, watch movies not filmed and read books not yet written. I have friends who never knew him in person, but just as an integral part of our family's past.
My husband and I still live in the house that he grew up in, and are comforted by the memories that greet us in every room. But even the house of his childhood has evolved into something quite different. And while not unrecognizable, it's not as it was when he lived here. Time has pushed us forward into a future I couldn't imagine back in 2010. Back then, our days slowed to an almost unbearable pace, and we were mired down in our grief. It was a slog to get from sunrise to sunset, and the nights could feel endless. As unimaginable as it seemed then, time has been a healer.
It's this concept of time that I ponder on the 11th anniversary. On the one hand, Matthew is stuck in our minds as a forever 21-year-old, while for the rest of us, the years circle around adding rings to our lives like the rings of a cedar tree. His younger brother and sister have long passed him in age, although he will always be the older brother in our family.
Matthew now lives outside the boundaries of time that bind the rest of us to this world. Our lives are measured by time; we are tied to its constraints - past, present and future. For Matthew, that stopped on October 22, 2010. I happen to believe that his energy is still around us, it's just not as "orderly" as we are used to. I don't know how to explain it when I "feel" him when I am on a hike in the Olympic Peninsula, and I don't know if I need to understand it. I'm just forever grateful for those mystifying and comforting moments.
Thankfully our memories of Matthew carry us forward. As our pasts recede and time marches us toward an unknown future, we keep him alive in our thoughts and our stories, grateful that we had him for 21 years.