She sat across from me. Her hands were clasped around her mug of tea. But it felt like they were cupped together, catching and collecting my tears.
Sitting in a public place, I felt like our conversation was out of place. I kept wondering what the body at the table behind me was thinking. Our backs toward each other shielded my crying face from him, but I couldn’t hide the breaking in my voice. I felt movement, a shifting, when I said the words “the day he died.”
So much to process. I feel directionless. I may be walking in circles – but each time around I glean a strand I missed and that is enough to make me keep going. I can’t keep straight what I have written down and what only resides in my mind.
I remember something I told her that day. I don’t remember her specific question except that after she asked it, I felt so relieved. I didn’t realize how much I wanted someone to ask me until she did. Wait I remember now. She asked me what it was like – what the last days were like.
I am carrying something that has changed who I am. It is large, unwieldy, unshapely, heavy – yet invisible. Oh to tell her what it was like, what sweet relief. Release of toxic tears, naming of sorrows, lifting of veils, opening of windows. See this something inside me, please, let me tell you what it feels like to have this something inside me incessantly, to carry it always.
What was it like?
It was sacred. It was an invisible world. An alternate universe. This same world but flipped upside down. Familiar infused with foreign. Everything was so precious. A house of priceless stained glass about to shatter. It was the most tired I have ever been. It was a mysterious unknown tied to an undeniable certainty. It was the desperation of never wanting to let go. Never wanting it to end. This secret, sacred world.
But it did. I watched him die. The memory is of course corrupted now with the passage of time, but I remember touching the sock on his right foot. I remember kissing him. The finality of my goodbye.
The month following felt like hibernation. I liked being home. The place where he was. His chair. Oh his chair. Sitting in his chair with the footrest up. The greenish-blue fuzzy blanket. It felt right to be living amidst the things he touched and used. Thick with memories. Breathing them in, breathing them out. Feeling him close.
When I said goodbye I knew it was goodbye. I didn’t need to say it standing next to his casket at the visitation, speaking out into the crowd at his funeral service, or even when we left his body in his grave. I had already said it.
We lived through Thanksgiving. Christmas passed. I moved back to Columbus right at New Year’s. I went with my sister to a party. Undeniably, we both were weary. Neither of us was ready to celebrate the start of a new year. Not when he wouldn’t be in it.
The year is unfolding. Things are occurring. I am changing. But I find that I am still holding this something. It changes – its size, its shape, its weight. Sometimes it morphs into a soft tissue crumpled in my pocket. I’ll wake up the next morning and its transformed into an unbearable heaviness on my chest. Today it is palpable but nameless.
But oh why does it still feel invisible?
I have come back to our home. An interim. Living a limbo. I packed up my belongings into two grey plastic totes and what couldn’t fit was stuffed into grocery bags or travelled loose on hangers. It only took a few trips with the help of my little sister to bring it all inside.
Inside. Oh this place. My bedroom a few feet from the place where I said goodbye. All that has happened, how I have changed, saying goodbye, yet this place feels the same.
The alternate universe did not vanish when he left. It didn’t disappear in my absence. It didn’t fade under the wear of time. It is still here.
Oh the invisible worlds I can’t see. If I can forget my own… oh I just know there must be countless more.