I watched you cross. You simply waded into the cold water, the light twirling away from you and then drawing back in, sticking to your clothes. When your head went under, I cried out, until I saw you surface just a few feet beyond that, your head slowly coming to the surface. I think it must have been your boots that kept your feet on the river bottom; heavy steel-toed things.
When you got to the other side, you turned and smiled. You looked sad, and alone, and cold – but you smiled anyway, and waved. You yelled from the other side, but I couldn’t hear you.
The river light changed then, from blue to purple and then to white; it lit up your face. Your smile widened, and peace spread across your eyes, infused your smile. I still couldn’t hear you, but your mouth moved slowly;
This is not goodbye. See you again, friend.
But death is always a goodbye, unless we believe otherwise. And sometimes when you watch someone choose to cross the river on their own terms, to wash away their pain from this life, the belief you’ve held your whole life falters, flickers in and out of existence. Grief is a fickle thing, a process full of loops and stitches, a needle moving in and out and then doubling back. My grief has led to dreams. It has led to constant wonder at what I could have done differently to help you, to keep you from wading into that water. I don’t know what else I could have done. Some voice in me keeps telling me not to dwell on what I could have done better for you, but to do better for others. Actions speak louder than words; words are nice, but action shows you mean them. Sometimes I think that voice is yours.
Move on, my bones are gone now. Do better by others.
Grief has a funny way of playing with our minds. But maybe I’ll choose to believe in my ability to do better, and that some day I’ll see you again on the western shore of the luminescent river. Perhaps I’ll even be given glimpses in these flickering dreams that light up my subconscious.
Rest well, Jakob.