Thursday, March 28, 2019

Last Touch

I'm not scared of a dead body.  I know now that no harm can come to me from sitting with a beloved corpse, or holding its hand, or kissing its lips and forehead or stroking its hair.  No harm from a last teasing tweak of familiar dead toes with hobbit hair and funny familiar toenails carelessly trimmed.  No harm in laying a warm hand on a still-warm furry cozy bare tummy that won't ever again be pressed to my bare tummy.

You grew cold, fast.  Then colder still and stiffer and then there was the autopsy and the death mask makeup and soon there was no truly human landmark on your body, by which to find my way, and still no harm came to me in the last moments with you, the last moments I would ever experience in the presence of corporeal you.  I stood with the funeral director at the very end of the longest week I've ever known to date, it was finally quiet, just the three of us, and he told me he would put the ring on your finger, before he closed the casket.  I told him I wanted to do it myself, I wasn't scared, and he said "okay."  I carefully unbent your dead ring finger and carefully worked the sterling ring, the one I made just for dead you, over the dead knuckle and then I placed your dead hand nicely back where it had been, and ran my fingers through your hair to mess it up a little, to make sure you looked a little more like you, in preparation for the journey you'll make alone, the return journey of your body to the earth.  The last touch was only ours and ours alone, because touching the living you who touched me back and the dead you who couldn't, that was all part of our story.

Thursday, March 21, 2019


I heard the autopsy results today, over the phone.

Three hours before you died, I made us sandwiches, not knowing, of course, the importance of the moment.  Your favorite thin-sliced smoked ham from Lassen.  Swiss cheese.  Really good tomatoes, and lettuce, and Dijon mustard, the seed kind.  I'd been making you sandwiches for long decades.  I wanted to take care of you, and I began to learn the things you liked to eat, the very first month we were together.  In those days, it was white American cheese from the deli in the Swarthmore supermarket.  Tomatoes.  Miracle Whip.  On white bread.

28 years after those first romantic sandwiches, you died and they cut you open and took out your guts to look at, along with everything else.  I guess the medical examiner held all the parts of you in his hands, probably not thinking, while he did so, that the whole history of a marriage passed through that stomach.  Birthday cakes, special meals we ate in Paris, the endless cheese-and-tomato sandwiches, street food, and salads with Michel's lemon dressing.  12-year-old scotch, the homemade hummus with too much raw garlic that you gamely ate anyway.  Pancakes with B-grade maple syrup because you heard it was better tasting than A-grade (and it was).  Raw broccoli (how could you have liked that?? But you did!).  Perrine's fideos with beans.  Ethiopian food, remember how one time I gave you my precious share of the bottom layer of injera, that had soaked up the juices of the meal? That was love! (also, I was full!).  And the cheerios that baby Ella fed you.  Hot hot sauce on our eggs. The week of unimaginative vegan meals, on a whim.  Army delicacies that I recreated in our kitchen, not quite the same, but tasty nostalgia, so you assured me.

The very last thing you ate in your whole life was a little square of dark chocolate.  You stood at the counter, totally alive, and when I offered it to you, you opened your mouth wide like a big funny baby bird, and I placed it on your tongue, and for some reason, we laughed.

I read that at the completion of the autopsy, the medical examiner places all the organs in a bag, and tucks the bag back in the body's thoracic cavity.  I think today especially of your stomach, tossed in that bag.  I think how all eating is done for you now.  I think how important was that last sandwich in the history of us.  I think, chocolate was the last thing he tasted.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Focus on the Good

Focus on the good, focus on the were not good for me, very often oftener than not, not good to me.  That's the fucking truth.  After this nightmare month passed, right at the end of it,  I thought I'd found some footing.  Equilibrium that I hadn't known in 28 years.  I started to remember what it was really like with you.  How wrecked and bloodied and battered I was, long before you died.  I started to think: I could finally have a life free from fear! My being was crowded, in the immediate afterwards, with the glory of your infrequent smile and the warm good smell of you, the sex, the jokes, the way you were my best friend forever...a strange set of only-half-truths my mind told me, because I was mourning my husband and that's the way it's supposed to go.  Focus on the good.

Focus on the good.  Focus on the good.  Focus on the good, even if the good kills you soul-dead in its memory.  The good I wished for.  The good I clung to like a weak infant.  You were the cloth mother, and I was trained to believe in a kindness of living flesh inside the soft rags suffused with that wonderful smell of Husband.  Focus on the good! Focus on the good! Focus on the good! Focus on the life! Focus on the beautiful memories! Good times! Compassion! Heroism! He loved you he loved you he loved you! Oh yes yes!

I'm curled up in the loneliness of 28 years of all alone, mourning the cloth mother and the Everything-I-Ever-Wished-I-Had.