“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”– A. A. Milne
I have been asked what is written on a thin leather bracelet I starting wearing recently, and as I can’t speak without crying, I thought I would tell the story of how I came to wear this gift.
Justin was our Christopher Robin and our Tigger, it all depended on the day. He would sing the bouncy Tigger song much to the delight of whoever could hear him, and with his rain boots and slicker, he could easily be Christopher Robin. We spent many a happy moment watching Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day and would have tea parties in our own make-believe Hundred Acre Wood.
This was a hard spring, and the precious gift of new pictures of Justin caught me unprepared. That smile, those eyebrows, the joy on his face, they were such unguarded pictures of him, so beautiful. I could recognize the grief wave, knew what it was, but it still beats you up pretty good. I wanted to reach through those pictures and touch that face, hear that laugh that had just left his lips.
It was right around the same time that I came across an artist on Etsy, a marvelous on-line assembly of artisans from all over the world. I am not even sure how I found C. Johanesen Studio, maybe it just found me, but the first bracelet I saw was the Christopher Robin quote on a thin leather wrap. I cried the rest of the afternoon and wasn’t sure why. I kept coming back to it over and over again, and the same reaction, tears. Tears are good, they upset the puppy, but tears are cleansing, they move through us, release chemicals that our brains need, they can bring clarity. I knew I desperately wanted that bracelet, I read the quote over and over, but I would be crying too hard to place an order. I thought about that quote all the time, out in the garden, doing dishes, and then I caught a flicker of recognition. Justin, is that you? “If there ever is tomorrow when we are not together”, yes that tomorrow came. “There is something you must always remember”, okay, but you know that I struggle with memory now, “you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” Yes, but can you see me Justin? I am surrounded by a mounds of tissues, curled in a ball from the pain, dodging the pup’s tongue as he tries to lick my tears, I am not really feeling the brave and strong right now. “But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart…I’ll always be with you.”
Not unlike putting a puzzle together, I started to fit the pieces together, Winnie the Pooh, Christopher Robin, “I’ll always be with you.” It took me a good month before I could pull myself together enough to focus on placing an order, and when it arrived it was perfect. I can hear you telling me those words, the wisdom of Pooh Bear. I am new to this, this new way of relationship, building a different sort of relationship with you, I am very slow to catch on. And hesitant, the world might think I am crazy, but I don’t care anymore. I have more leads to follow, now I can see them, we have your journal and notes for a reason. You had such a rich interior life that I didn’t know, and the loss of your companionship is such a heavy fog, but maybe I am learning. Learning to hear your whispers.
My love for you didn’t die, and if love does not die, then your love for me did not die, your love for your father, and Ryan did not die. Your love for your aunts, uncles, cousins, friends still lives and has the power that only love has to touch lives. Whispers of love. May love be your legacy Justin. And I will try very hard to remember, promise.