In the early months after her diagnosis and again later when treatments failed, Laura would say, “I will miss you.” And I would think, “but you won’t be here/there to do any missing. You don’t believe in an afterlife.” Laura’s friend Janet Beizer said that perhaps Laura was not referring to herself doing the missing in the future, but that she would miss (out on) our future lives. “I wonder if what Laura meant when she said she’d miss you and Anne Mei was something kind of literal, like that she’d miss out on what would be with you and Anne Mei? or else that she was already missing what she wouldn’t be able to live? There are so many ways to interpret missing …” When Janet wrote that, I realized that I had been taking Laura too literally. This was a common problem I had with her aphasia. I would think that she meant exactly what she said, but she was just struggling to find words.
I finally got what Laura meant during Beasts of the Southern Wild more than two years after Laura died. The movie centers on a little girl who lives with her father. Much of the plot is about the father’s dying and the little girl’s wishing for her missing mother. I felt my own mortality and had strong feelings about what it might be like for Anne Mei after I’m gone. What I realized afterwards was that for years I had lived with the idea that Anne Mei would have Laura after I died. Now she won’t. Then I saw that these were the emotions Laura was feeling when she said “I will miss you.”
Then almost four years after Laura passed, Janet alerted me to Robert Redford’s movie All is Lost, which opens with the main character writing what seems to be a farewell letter to his loved ones. It ends with the same line: I will miss you.