The day I found out he had passed, I was on my way to a U of H football game. We bought season tickets because of him. He loved football. As I took the exit toward the university, the radio screen on my car displayed his mom’s name. I quickly answered her call to be greeted by his aunt. She asked how I was and then said, “I have some bad news for you honey. Daniel passed away.” I asked what happened and how his parents were and we hung up.
After we got off the phone, my friend called me, and we talked for a bit. I tell him almost everything, but I didn’t tell him about Daniel. I couldn’t. I knew that once I did, it was going to be real.
I got to the place where I park and sat there for a bit. Then, it all sank in. I texted my sister, and I called another friend to tell her. I cried some. And then, I got out of my car and walked to the stadium. I was grateful that it was bright out because my sunglasses could help cover up the tears.
When I got to the stadium, I sat in the stands, where he always liked to sit, and tried to keep calm. It was hard because all I could think about was how his aunt said he’d been dead some time before anyone found him. And although I never would have wished for this to happen, a part of me kind of expected it. Being at the game helped me feel closer to him. I know he would have wanted me to make it to the game. It felt like the best way to honor him was to be there.
In the coming days, I couldn’t understand how the world could go on as if he had never existed. I would go to the park and get on the bike path I like to run and feel the tears just stream from my eyes. Once I’d get back to my car, I was so exhausted that I didn’t feel anything anymore.
At his funeral, the minister didn’t really know anything about him. He shared stories Daniel’s family had told him, but he didn’t really honor his life. He didn’t talk about how patient he was when Gabi asked him about football. Or how he loved to surprise people in any way he could. How he had wanted so badly to be a father. How he had loved me so much even after I had broken his heart.
He was buried in an Eagles jersey which was fitting because he was their biggest fan. But he looked nothing like I remembered him. I touched his chest and it felt hollow. The only thing that felt the same was his big beard that I never cared for. But I was happy to caress it one last time.
It was hard to go around town because everywhere, there was a reminder of him. The pizza place he loved. The place we’d go get shaved ice from. The store where he worked. The movie theater we always went to. The hospital we were at when he was diagnosed with diabetes. The park where I was so angry with him and decided I was done. The store he went to buy crappy food he could fix because we were broken up.
At first, the guilt was overwhelming. But I know I couldn’t have kept him alive. He wasn’t willing to take care of himself. That was one of the reasons I wanted to end things. It was too much to have to take care of him and myself. I just couldn’t anymore.
As is the case with all grief, the sadness started to dissipate. I found things that helped me cope, like jogging. I threw myself into work. I prayed a rosary for nine days. I created a profile on a dating site and went on a couple dates.
But as is also the case with grief, sometimes it catches me off guard. I’ll be walking through a store and hear a song that he liked and the tears come. I hold them back until I’m able to get to my car and let it out.
After his passing, my mom said that his death will forever mark my life. I had to buy a new journal because I couldn’t keep writing in the one that I talked about our breakup and how free I felt. Now, my freedom is tainted with the sadness of his death.
El día de los muertos, I was overwhelmed with sadness. I cried myself to sleep that night. I’m sure there will be more nights like that. Losing someone that was such a big part of your life for so long isn’t easy, even if they weren’t part of your life anymore.