I've had several brushes with Aimee's ghost in the last few weeks.
Let me rephrase: I've had several people at different places in their relationship with Aimee's death speak with me in the past few weeks. One person asked permission to make a tribute; one simply greeted me like it was April 2nd and not nearly five months later with no sense of the journey I've taken in those five months.Another, a parent of former students, simply gave me a hug. There were others, but these are salient and representative.
When someone dies, we each own our own grief. We have to. Mine is not the same as Aimee's mother, her father, her sister, or any of the boys, just as my relationship with Aimee wasn't the same as it was with any of those people. My relationship with her death is as different from anyone's as my relationship with her while she was alive. To call it anything else would be untruth.
What I want--I need--the world to know is that I don't own Aimee's memory. I am not the gatekeeper for anyone else's grief journey. I don't have answers for her family or the boys, former students or her co-workers. Anyone. I've only been able to find answers for myself, answers which have been painful, but real. No matter how painful, no matter how broken, we can still strive for beauty in life. We can still love. We can still live every day as though it is a precious, precious gift.
Because life is a precious gift. Every. Damn. Day.
I stood next to Aimee's body for three hours the night of the visitation. I shook hands, hugged, laughed, and cried with hundreds of people. I knew some of them; others were strangers to me. I was the conduit, the lightning rod for so much raw, barbaric emotion. The well is deep. Bottomless at times. That night, I was there as a stand in for her.
Now, I can't be her stand in any more. Aimee would have rejected the idea of me owning her memory, being the sole keeper of her legacy, just as much as she would have rejected such obscene inequality when she was alive. I never owned her. She was her own person, at times beautiful and full of life but as fragile as any of us. She had countless relationships, too, and each was precious and unique in its own way.
I lay this burden down not out of malice or ill will or exhaustion, but because it is not mine. If you had a relationship with Aimee, it is yours. Take care of it. Show it to loved ones. Tell stories and remember good times. Set her ghost free. Cling to it if you need to. Rage with it. Build an altar and let her smoke rise up forever if that is what you need. Love her memory like you loved her.