Saturday, July 26, 2008

Such a Simple Word

Some of you mentioned that it's been a long time since I posted anything. Yep. I just have a hard time writing much that is upbeat right now, so I stopped posting. Below is an abbreviated version of something i wrote four months after Bill died. It will be published in "Living with Loss" magazine next month. I had to cut out a lot so they could fit it into the magazine, but this is the longer version.

Such a Simple Word

Speeding down the freeway and rushing toward the ER’s revolving door did not speed up the moment
The waiting
The knowing
The dread of learning that you were dead.
Learning--as if I had to be taught what it meant that you were gone.
As if I needed a dictionary to comprehend the words, “He’s dead.”
As if I didn’t have the intelligence to understand that you were dead.

Nonetheless, I learned that you were dead on a sunny, autumn day from a pretty doctor with bloodshot eyes and a gentle voice that said,
“He’s dead.”

Class dismissed--
As if I learned what I needed to know about you being dead from those two words.

The doctor, the nurse, the officer--
They kept telling me
Explaining to me
Describing to me
How you died.

I listened while watching from above
My body shivering in a chair below
Rocking, questioning, crying, and then, nothing.
Nothing but the glow of the stained glass window blurred in the corner of the chapel--
I dried my own tears with my trembling hand
I called the family, one by one, my hand shaking like I was playing a tambourine as I said, over and over,
“He’s dead.”
I listened dry-eyed to their sobs so far away, wishing I, too, could cry--
Not understanding why the tears had stopped,
Not knowing it was normal.

I felt strong, composed, when they took me to you down the hallway to a small, sterile room--
“Take as much time as you need,” she said.
How much time do people need?

First, I saw your boots in a bag and envisioned you climbing poles.
I saw your computer on the floor and thought of you working at the table after dinner.
I saw your jeans cut open
Gown over your chest
Minor abrasions on your arms
Tube in your mouth, just as she had warned--
Tube in your mouth.
You looked so strong
So healthy
So alive,
Except for the tube in your mouth.

Avoiding the tube in your mouth
I touched you as if you were alive
I felt your curls between my fingers
The contours of your chest met my face as I collapsed from sobs patiently waiting behind my composure.
I caressed your arms and your face with the back of my hand, trying to soothe away your gone-ness.
I slid your rings, one by one, onto my fingers, remembering the moments that made each one special.
Around my wrist I fastened your watch still ticking, the weight of its largeness a reminder of your touch—
Your touch for sixteen years.
As I took these things, methodically, I realized I didn’t understand that small word even a child can say…


Such a simple word…
With so many complications.
Easy to say.
Hard to hear.
An explosion
An indefinable sound
An echo that singes the brain—a sting and then numbness, no feeling, no pain.

“I need you to sign some forms,” she said.
My tambourine hand met pen to paper with syncopated rhythm, but no sound— not even I could recognize the signature as my own. But my hand kept on
playing as I sat next to you.
It tried to find a rhythm for days.
I'm still trying to find a rhythm without you.

“He’s dead,” someone else said, again.

Almost four months later
I’m still trying to believe it--
After funeral
After Thanksgiving
After Anniversary
After Christmas
After New Year’s
After Valentine’s Day.

You’re dead. I know that.

I never knew being alone could be so crowded with
Things to do
People to please
Places to go
Revisions of everything that once was.

“He’s dead,” I said.

I said it to your friends
I said it to your family
I said it to the mail carrier
To the vet, the pharmacist, and your co-workers.
I said it to dozens of people.

You’re dead.

I know that.
I read it on forms, in reports, in my journal—yet I feel as if you’re still alive, you’re just not here.
You’re alive in pictures, in sounds, in thoughts, in dreams—until I remember…

“He’s dead,” the pretty doctor said.

It is easy to say.
But I’m still learning what it means for you to be gone, passed away,
For you to be dead.
I’m still learning after all this time.

If only you were here to explain it to me.

I really don’t understand what it means when I say, “He’s dead.”
Maybe if I could touch you just one last time
Maybe I would understand.
I don’t understand ashes
Or memorials
Or silence…
I don’t understand that you’re gone forever--
Not even after 120 days of knowing.

1 comment:

jay are said...

There are absolutely no words. Stunning comes to mind, but that isn't quite the right word either.