‘Keeley?,’ you whispered. I peeked back in. You were grinning that huge grin. ‘I love you, Keebee.’ I’m not happy to admit I got annoyed. Now, I think you were just preparing me.’

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“A year ago, today (January 24th, 2018) was the last time I saw you. It was a normal morning. you kept me up until three in the morning, like you did pretty much every day. Then you woke me up at six, also like you did pretty much every day. I had only gotten three hours of sleep and I had to work an eight hour shift that day, but I didn’t mind. I couldn’t ever be mad at you.

I don’t really quite remember that morning. I remember that every single morning, you’d wake me up and then get ready for the day. You’d start by brushing your teeth, laying your clothes out while you did this… and then you’d wake me up when I’d inevitably fall asleep waiting for my turn to get ready.

But I don’t remember if that’s how it went that morning, and that part hurts the most. What I do remember is that when I got done getting ready, you scooted over and suggested I laid down for just another minute… and I did just that. I laid down and we talked and laughed and hushed each other so we wouldn’t wake the other sleeping people. Then finally, you looked at the time on my phone and told me it was time for me to go.

‘Keeley?’ you whispered as I tried to shut the bedroom door quietly. I peeked back in and you were grinning that huge grin and you said, ‘I love you, Keebee.’ I smiled and said it back. Every time I’d try to shut the door, you’d tell me you love me again. I’m not happy to admit that I got annoyed. Now I think you were just preparing me.

I remember you asking me what time I was getting home from work, then saying we had to go grocery shopping when I got off. You made me recite a list of things we needed. You told me not to worry about money because you were going job hunting that day. You knew I was getting home first. You knew that 100%. But what you didn’t know is that I was coming home for lunch so I could see you. I wanted to surprise you.

I don’t remember what I did at work that day. I just remember I got in my car to go to lunch and drove home as soon as my relief got there. I remember singing along to the radio. I remember it was sunny, but cold. I remember that I left my jacket at work.

Then the next thing I remember for certain, after getting home, is sitting in the mud for the next three hours while I had to tell a number of people what all I did that day. I told about twenty first responders, I told my mom, I told my job. I had to tell your mother, your best friend. I had to tell some people that didn’t really need to know. I even had to tell a therapist.

I remember the exact moment I knew. I remember Christine was holding me tightly in our room. I remember a noise that came out of my mouth that I can’t even call a scream. I remember my mom on the phone telling me to ‘Get out, get out. Close your eyes, don’t look’. I remember fire rescue ushering Christine and I out on the lawn. I remember collapsing in the grass as I was screaming and crying and asking anyone that would listen, ‘Why?’ You knew I was coming home first that day. You knew.

I remember for months after that, blaming myself. Wondering what I missed, what I did wrong. I remember other people blaming me. Would you still have done it if you could have seen into the future?

I remember taking hour long showers, praying to god or buddha or anyone up there that could answer me and asking them, ‘Why?’ But no answers came, because nobody knew.

There’s not a step by step guide on how to keep living after the person you love dies. I know, because I tried to look for one. There’s no answer. You just do. You get up every single day, and you fight, because that’s what they would want you to do. You move on, because that’s what they would want for you.

I spent so long trying to figure out why, Austin. I made myself sick, I drove myself crazy, I became obsessed with finding answers. There are none, though. and it’s time for me to heal. It’s time for me to find my peace. I deserve that, right?

I know you see me. I know you’re around me. I know you’ve seen how long it has taken me. I know you see that I am loving again, and I know you hand-picked our little boy just for us… and I know you’re proud. Everyone asks you what you learned the previous year when the ball drops. What did I learn in 2018? That people aren’t medicine, and love doesn’t save you. But man, do I sure wish it did sometimes.

I often wonder what you’d say to me if you were here. We’d be sitting in my car, you’d have a Marlboro red in between your fingers, and that big grin on your face… and you’d no doubt turn to me and say, ‘No soft sh*t, Keebee.’

I love you, Austin Neal. thank you for everything you showed me while you were here, and everything you continued to show me now that you’re gone. I’ll miss you forever.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Keeley Barnefiher. Follow her journey on Instagram hereSubmit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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