My decision was not feckless but rather anchored in practicality. I no longer could devote the time to show up at every meeting and with each meeting missed, I felt I was not only shirking my responsibility to the group but also losing ground in their collective breakthroughs.
Evelyn and Winifred, our two facilitators, told us to give a brief check-in. This is the point we start each meeting with our highlights or, most of the time our lowlights, of the previous week. Winifred announced we would be doing "something different" after everyone spoke. We all gave each other a worried side glance as something different in this group is met with trepidation. We've all had enough of "something different" to last us the rest of our lives. I decided not to break the news to the group on the first go-around and instead I updated them on my job and how it helps deflect my attention away from missing Billy.
Then Winifred passed out a questionnaire and told us to fill in the blanks as quickly as possible. We were each given a few magazines to use as lap-desks on which to write. I was lucky to have the heft of O Magazine and a Christmas edition of Good Housekeeping. I glanced at the questions and my heart sank.
Dear Honey Bunny,
I really miss you when... I wake up and when I go to sleep.
It is hard to let go of the pain because... I don't know where to put it.
I still feel guilty about... Each moment I made you feel bad. For not heeding your warnings of chest pains.
I also feel angry that... I didn't join you.
Sometimes I am sad when... I remember your touch, your voice, your laugh, your kiss, your sincerity, your dream of our future.
One thing that has changed since your death is... I cry everyday.
The thing that is still the same is... I watch too much TV.
The special memory I have of you is... Who you were.
If I could have one last chance to talk to you I would tell you... I believe in you.
When we all put down our pens, we were sobbing. Except Earl. He is the only other man in the group having lost his wife in the plane that went into the Pentagon. He is a sturdy, good man but weeping has never been on his menu. We were then asked to read our responses out loud.
I made it through the first two questions without my voice breaking. The third one took the finger out of the dam. By the time I read the last response aloud, the most difficult one, I was barely able to speak. My words caught and sputtered out, my face wet from a shower. For reasons I have yet to be able to say aloud let alone write down, that last answer, "I believe in you," is the tip of the regretberg.
I caught my breath, turned to Winifred and said, "Well, I hope you're happy now," with as much sarcasm as I could muster.
Toward the end of our two hours together, I told them my plan to leave the group. I explained my work schedule was erratic. I told them I loved them and I also told them I knew they loved me. They reinforced this by their gentle words and the need in their eyes for me to stay.
They are, after all, part of my family. And I will take the sense of family wherever I can get it. Even if it's in two hour chunks every other week, even through the compassion and support on here. I can't share as much naked emotion with these people as I have and just walk away. It's not my style. And it wasn't Billy's either.