I got a postcard from Patrick.
He mailed it from his Bike and Build route in Ohio to my summer sublet in Austin, but I'd rushed out before its arrival. The front displays a colorful map of Pennsylvania. "Kiddo!" is written in bulky block letters. His distinctively messy handwriting, one that I'm now remembering was so similar to mine, covers the back with descriptions of day-to-day life happenings.
It arrived after he died. Only now, after bicycling 6500 miles and returning to Austin, did I get to read his words.
I could have read it months ago-- the friend safekeeping it for me could have simply mailed it to my new residence. But it felt too heavy, too painfully significant to receive it so simply. This was it, this was Patrick's final message to me. Coming to terms with the reality that everything Patrick would say or do already happened has been unbearably difficult. While my life progresses, his remains stagnant, finalized. I figured that as long as I left this postcard unread, I left one final stone unturned. Some new discovery could emerge from the 4 by 6 piece of cardstock.
Once it was finally delivered to me (thanks to some very diligent friends and friends of friends), I wanted to hand it back. I wanted to cry, wanted to say I wasn't ready. I wanted to keep it suspended in a Schrodinger's paradox, to allow Patrick to always have something unfinished to say to me. But as I starred at the front photo and held it in my shaking hands, I knew I simply had to read it.
It carried no untold secrets. No grand confessionals, no life-changing insights. My eyes welled with tears. This was it? Patrick, why couldn't you have told me more? Why couldn't you have comforted me about your impending death or given me advice on living the next half-century without you or told me a final dying wish?
My chest constricted. I'd instilled so much faith in this postcard for the past year and a half, hoping it would be the one time Patrick could speak about his death, because after all, he was speaking to me after death. But his lighthearted recap of bicycling through Ohio afforded me no such insight.
As I held the postcard for longer and ran my fingertips along his handwriting, my devastation dissolved into relief.
There was no extrodinary reveal because Patrick did not know I would be sitting alone sobbing and reading it over a year later. He did not know the significance it would hold. He simply did not he was going to die.
That thought brings me comfort.
He wrote about bicycling terrain and delicious dinners because for that beautiful last month of his life, that was what mattered. He wouldn't have imagined needing to convey dying wishes. To him, death did not loom ahead, life did.
Perhaps that indeed is what he would want to communicate to me from the grave. That in life, he focused always on the living. That in my life, perhaps I should do the same.
I inhaled deeply. I slid the postcard gently into my backpack. I got back on my bike.