The day we left Madison, May 11th 2017, I had a feeling of dread. It was not something I could explain. It washed over me like as wave as we drove on E. Johnson Ave from our apartment to the Dane County Regional Airport. I reasoned that it was because we had forgotten something, our camera, but it felt stronger and darker than a feeling of forgetting. It was a deep feeling of foreboding that settled into the pit of my stomach and slowly went away. It was intuition.
Tim died 4 days later. And again, 8 days after that. We never went home.
Just two weeks shy of one year since we left Madison, I returned with my children. I had flown back briefly to pack my apartment in the aftermath of Tim’s death. It was traumatic and overwhelming. I mostly operated on autopilot as I went through the belongings of our 12 years together and determined what would be packed for our next life and what would stay behind. But this time, I went back to visit. To see friends and loved ones. To reconnect.
It was a beautiful experience, to be there again, with my children, a year later. To stay and reconnect with friends who are now family. To visit the places of our past. The zoo. The Children’s Museum. The Botanical Garden. The city my children were conceived and born in.
I was surrounded with love the entire trip. It was overwhelming to be so inundated with the love and attention of people I so deeply care about. The people we met before we were pregnant. The women I connected with in those chaotic newborn days. The friends and neighbors we met and loved along the way. It was rejuvenating to remember just how loved we were and still are.
And it was refreshing to see that they, too, have changed. Friends with new babies. Divorces. Physical transformations. Sick parents. Dead loved ones. They have changed too. Madison did not simply stop existing the moment we left. The infrastructure has changed. The people have continued living. Time has pressed forward regardless of our presence there. And that was comforting. To know that we are not the only ones. Everyone has experienced change, hardship, trauma, grief. And for a week, we could be together in that.
The trip home was harder than I anticipated it being. A few days in, I started experiencing horrible stomach pain and headaches. I chalked it up to too many drinks (though I had not had many), or a stomach bug. But it would mysteriously disappear in social gatherings. And when we got home. I believe it was stress and grief in it’s physical manifestations. And it’s probably a good thing I had a chance to feel it.
It was healing as well. I left some of Tim in Madison. After dinner with two close friends, we walked a dark trail on the outskirts of the Arboretum and poured some of Tim’s ashes into Lake Wingra. It felt right to leave some of him there, in this city that had made us who we were. This place that our family was formed. Our home.
I look forward to future trips to Madison. To showing my children the city of their infancy, and watching them take it in as they grow. We were fortunate to have that place. We still have that place.