city scape

Grief is…revisting and reclaiming - New York

October 30, 20235 min read

Grief is…revisting and reclaiming - New York

The skyline of New York from the Staten Island ferry

For the 2nd anniversary of Ben’s death, we again took the week off work. Ben died 4 days before his sister’s birthday so it’s a complicated week. We decided we were ready to do something big and go somewhere we love and had loved visiting with Ben, New York City. I really believed that one day he would move there he loved it so much and was so comfortable there. We’d been to New York several times together and the kids had gone a few times just the two of them. We had last been there to celebrate Ben’s 21st birthday in 2018. We were supposed to go back in May of 2020 and lost that trip because of COVID. It’s a place we enjoy immensely, and I didn’t want it to be a place we would never visit. I felt very strongly that it was somewhere we needed to revisit, to remember its importance in the past and reclaim it for the future.

It’s a city we all loved and had a routine for how we visit. We had favourite things we always did and a way we did them. And some of that had to change. We love theatre so we always see a show every showtime that’s available. Some of how we used to do that changed during covid – very few shows have in person rush anymore which is how we always bought tickets in the past. Just the rhythm change, of not getting up early to go wait in line, shifted how we approached our time. I missed the ritual of hanging out with other theatre lovers on the sidewalk and getting super cheap seats. I missed heading back to the hotel to let Ben know where we were sitting. He rarely came with us to rush unless we needed him to on two show days. It was something Kathleen and I usually did together and then went to report back. Somehow entering a digital rush or lotto wasn’t the same but we still filled every slot and saw amazing shows. Ben loved fashion so countless hours on previous trips were spent in high fashion stores looking through collections from his favourite designers. He would try things on and Kathleen and I would drink champagne. He had amazing style and would always find perfect pieces to go with what he already had. He told me once he never bought something unless he could make three outfits out of it with pieces he already had. We walked fashion row and thought of him while looking in the windows. We had set some money aside to buy something spectacular that we loved and would make us think of him and we did. It was a lovely way to think of him and reexperience high fashion while finding something we each love and will use often.

Some things we weren’t ready to revisit. The last trip there was just the three of us and was in celebration of Ben’s 21st birthday. That trip holds some very special memories as Ben was finally old enough to go to bars and we went to some really fun ones. We had talked about going back to them as we’d had such a good time. It never seemed to come together and about halfway through our week there I realized why. Those memories are very special. For me, they are perfect. We are not ready to layer over them. When you go back to somewhere you’ve been, the memories get layered together. If you have visited a place often, sometimes it’s hard to remember which trip and with whom you had an experience. We weren’t ready to add to those memories yet so we didn’t. We usually go in the spring and go to the Costume Exhibit at the Met Museum. We didn’t go there either. The Costume Exhibit wasn’t on and we didn’t feel like seeing the things we’d seen so many times. Maybe one day we’ll go back while the Costume Exhibit is on and have a new experience there but this wasn’t the trip. It’s different from the perfect memory places because we’ve been to the museum so often. I don’t feel the same hesitation to layer new visits there - we just weren’t that interested in the current exhibits. The emotional hit of the two types of experiences is so different. One feels like something precious I don’t want to lessen and one just didn’t appeal.

To create new memories, we also did things we’d never done before. We rode the Staten Island Ferry – the best free way to see the Statue of Liberty up close. We went to the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, partly for the exhibits and partly because it’s housed in the Carnegie mansion, and we could indulge our love of The Gilded Age. We visited the main public library and did a tour of the famous reading room which is generally closed to the public. We walked and ate places we hadn’t before and just enjoyed the city we love. It’s a city where Ben feels very close. He is everywhere there and that was comforting to experience.

For me, the trip was about revisiting and reclaiming purposefully. We felt all the things that came up; sadness and happiness, connection to Ben and missing him so deeply. We did things purposefully to remember him and bring him with us. We did new things to start to imagine what visits there can be. We left some memories alone, perfect as they are. If we want our lives to be as big as they can be to honour ourselves and Ben, we need to revisit and reclaim places and experiences we shared with him. Especially the ones we loved as much as he did.

And for those that remember last years post…we did a much better job celebrating Kathleen’s birthday too.

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