How she left
The beginning of a life unmoored
I watched as she took her last breath. She just stopped inhaling. It wasn’t dramatic or abrupt. It just faded. No more in-and-out. Then she was gone.
In actuality, the real Mary had been gone for at least a day. The last glimpse of the real her, the one that everyone loved, was from the afternoon before. But still, that was only a glimpse, a slimmer. It wasn’t her, but it was close. You had to go back a couple more days to see the real Mary. If I’d only known that.
There were many people around witnessing the end but I saw none of them. I’d been watching her chest. In-and-out. I was numb and beyond emotion. It was hard to look at her face because I knew that she was no longer behind those closed eyes. In-and-out. I never really had a chance to say goodbye. I never had that last conversation. I always thought I’d have more time. But time was gone. And there was nothing I could do about that. So I sat, watching her chest rise. Guarding her as I always did. Just in-and-out.
Everyone around me knew about death. They’d all seen it before and had come to an understanding with it. This time though they could not escape it. They were as ripped apart as I was. They were nurses. Her nurses. Not because they cared for her in a hospital but because they worked for her in one. She was an amazing nurse herself. She’d always been proud of the fact that she’d helped innumerable people pass on with grace. Now her nurses were doing the same for her.
We were all gathered around her as she laid in a rented bed in a room that would never be a bedroom to me again. All of us trying to make some sense of this. The weight in the room beyond bearable. An occasional joke, as only Mary would have it, made us laugh through out wet eyes. We had been there for what felt like days but was clearly only hours. Watching.
“We found some spots on your liver.” Had it only really been six months since I’d heard that? That sound, those words, shatter you. There is no way to prepare and you never will be completely unbroken again. But, you recover quickly because there is fighting to do. Some people take days, other’s weeks, I was ready to fight in moments. But you’re never not broken from that. It’s the crack of lightning that doesn’t miss you. It was the one time I lost control, only for a moment, in front of people. Because I wasn’t prepared for that punch. I can’t imagine anyone is.
And then the in and out stopped. Like the last glimmer of the sun over the horizon. It’s just gone. The glaring sound of silence, that silence before you know it’s true, was blasting in my ears. I watched as the stethoscope confirmed what we already knew. She was no longer with us. As she laid there right in front of me, she no longer was. All my moments were gone, used up. If I’d only known that.
No one ever saw me broken. I only shared that when no one could see. I comforted. I consoled. I hugged and patted backs. I agreed and nodded. I helped to walk everyone over the bridge to the other side, the side were Mary was no longer in this world. I was “so strong.” I was “amazing.” I was surprised that no one could see inside of me, though. The flame that raged and consumed my heart didn’t show. The warm orange of the flame as my heart slowly vanished into smoke and light never reached outside of me. Or people didn’t look. Or no had any clue as to what to look for. Except her. And she no longer was.
Eventually the people receded like flood water back to their own lives. Only to reveal the reck my life had become. Shatter pieces of my former life everywhere but none of it where it should be. Pieces spread all around but nothing useable, or even identifiable, anymore. So I never went back there. I slipped out to sea.
That was 1938 days ago…
I am living a life unmoored. I am not really connected to anything and with no direction. I’m getting tossed on the waves with no sight of land. I don’t know which way I should be heading so I point the ship this way and then that way. But I never actually move. The wind has yet to fill up the sails so i’m just bobbing around. Years have passed on this sea but I am still here and nowhere, searching the horizon for land.
You see, I thought the land would come to me. A bright light or a burning bush would show me the way. But the view from the deck has been unyielding and indifferent. But now I realize that moving in a direction, any direction, will get me closer to something. Anything. So, on my 1939th day, my ship is slowly moving forward. Forward to discover what a new life can be.