walk out of the closet, my arms full of Erik’s shirts, all still on hangers. My 8-month-pregnant belly acts as a shelf, enabling me to carry more.
“I hope you’re alright with this,” I say to my brother, Troy. “That you don’t think it’s weird I’m giving you Erik’s stuff.”
I pile the shirts on top of my bed, the white plastic hangers clinking together like falling dominoes.
“No, I don’t think it’s weird, as long as you’re fine, as long as you feel ready,” Troy holds up a navy blue button-down. “This one will definitely fit.”
“Erik would be really happy you had these, I’m sure of it.”
It hasn’t even been three weeks since the blood trickled down the side of my husband’s mouth on Easter Sunday, but I have to give some of his things away.
His clothes keep calling to me. The soothing vanilla scent of Erik draws me into the closet again and again. I embrace his sweaters, his white t-shirts, inhaling the last remnants of his physical body. I imagine Erik following me into the walk-in to grab my ass, to tickle me, to tell me that none of this really happened, but I have to stop pretending he will reappear.
“I’ll be honored to wear them,” Troy says.
We have not spoken much about that night that my brother worked to resuscitate Erik, but I hope that Troy has let go of his guilt. There was nothing he could have done. Nothing any of us could have done to save him.
“I kept the things I know I will wear . . . or that his family may want.” It felt right to keep his underwear—all 23 pairs—for whatever reason, and I put Erik’s shoes in a box until I can figure out who will fit into them.
His mom, Jeanette, wants Erik’s silver-framed eyeglasses because she said he got on her case all of the time about hers not being cool enough. How ironic that she also lost her first husband when she was 29. Then her second husband when Erik was 11. And now Erik, her youngest and most beloved child. The pain she has endured in one lifetime is unfathomable.
Jeanette is probably the only person I know who can understand what I am feeling—what it’s like to be a young widow with babies.
Later that day, after Troy has left with several bags of Erik’s clothes, Jeannette calls to say she will be flying out next month for Keira’s birth. “I’ll stay as long as you need me, or until you kick me out. I want to be there for you, to take care of Tatiana, to help you with Keira.”
Our phone call is filled with recollections of Erik and tears.
“I miss him so much,” I tell her.
“Me too, sweetheart. I know exactly what you mean. But, you know, every time I think about how much I miss him, it occurs to me that, maybe, I am being selfish. I know he’s in a much better place. I know he’s with his daddy and I know he’s with God. It was his time. God brought him to a better place.”
What did she just say?
Her words infuriate me. I grip the portable black phone tighter, doing my best not to chuck it against the wall.
I restrain myself from screaming, “What a crock of shit!”
What a major crock of shit!
My face burns as if it had been shoved into a lit fireplace.
I take a breath, slowly, intentionally, and say, “I know everyone has their different opinions on this, on God, on an afterlife, and, well, right now I am just too upset with what I once thought was a higher power—call it God, call it whatever you want—for taking him from me, from us. Why would a higher power do that? Why would God do that? Quite honestly, I know there was no better place for Erik. This was it. He was happiest here. So, forgive me for saying this, but I’m having a hard time believing that this God wouldn’t have known how happy Erik was, that this God would have ripped him away from everything he loved.”