To Diana on her 45th birthday

I’ve never known anyone so tangibly absent. The empty spaces and awkward silences you once would have filled so enthusiastically now hover around our gatherings, elbowing their way through the room and crashing our conversations with their grim impositions, sidling up alongside us in our solitary moments and running chilly fingers along our spines.

Your absence is tremendous, a chasm as unfillable as it is unavoidable. Your absence is a presence, sometimes taking the spotlight, sometimes lurking just offstage, never out of our eyelines. And as painful as that absence can be, we can’t help but embrace it because it remains so distinctly you-shaped. An absence is always preferable to nothingness.

It would be easy to say there is something missing when we get together. But there isn’t something missing. There is you missing. There is us missing you. There is us missing the us that you made us.

There is you. There isn’t you. There was you. There will always be you.

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