Sunday, August 19, 2018

August 19: Facebook Memory, Classic Saint Marty, "Emmaus"

This morning, when I woke up, Facebook had sent me a memory:  a picture of my sister who died three years ago on this day.  It took me by surprise.  In the back of my head, I knew it was the anniversary of her passing, but I wasn't prepared to see her face smiling at me from my phone.

I just got back from visiting the cemetery with my daughter.  It's been a long, warm, sad day.  I've spent most of it mowing grass.  In an hour or so, dinner at my parents' house.

Today's Classic Saint Marty is from three years ago . . .

August 19, 2015:  Bewildered Expression, 6:27 a.m., Maggie Nelson, Unbearably Vivid Colors

And then Ives blinked and found himself standing on the sidewalk beside his wife, across the street from the Church of the Ascension.  On the pavement, just by his feet, was a large piece of canvas, and under it a body, stretched out.   Then the officer lifted off the canvas and shined a flashlight onto the face to reveal the shocked and bewildered expression of his son.

My sister died this morning at 6:27 a.m.

When I saw her last night, she was breathing hard, each intake hitting her chest like a hammer.  I leaned over, said her name and then, "It's me.  Marty."  Her eyelid lifted, and she focused on me.  I told her about my long day of work.  I told her about classes starting next week.  Just before I left, I leaned over and whispered, "You don't have to be afraid, Sal.  You don't."

When I got to my parents' house at around 5 a.m., my sister was surrounded by the people who loved her.  My mother and father, siblings, nieces, nephews, and best friends.  We all stood around her, touched her hands and feet, told her how much we loved her.

Her breaths got slower, the spaces in between longer, and then she was simply gone.

I thought I was prepared for it.  I thought I was going to hold myself together.  I thought a lot of things.  But, in those moments following my sister's death, I felt an incredible emptiness enter me, as if I had been scooped out like a pumpkin at Halloween.  I wasn't prepared.

It has been about twelve hours since that moment.  I am still not prepared for a world without my sister.  For 17 years, I worked with her.  Eight- and nine- and ten-hour days.  I spent more time with her than any of my other siblings, and we knew each other deeply.  Trusted each other deeply.  Loved each other deeply, without having to say it.

There will be no cartoon tonight.  No laughter.

My sister once said to me, "You know, I wish I was as strong as you."

Saint Marty isn't strong tonight.  He's heartbroken.

98 from Bluets

by:  Maggie Nelson

Vincent van Gogh, whose depression, some say, was likely related to temporal epilepsy, famously saw and painted the world in almost unbearably vivid colors.  After his nearly unsuccessful attempt to take his life by shooting himself in the gut, when asked why he should not be saved, he famously replied, "The sadness will last forever."  I imagine he was right.

Loss never gets easier.  It gets more distant, until days like today, when it becomes fresh again, like grass that's just been cut, bleeding the smell of green into the air.

A poem for today . . .


by:  Martin Achatz

My sister lies in her bed
while her neighbors scream
in the hallway outside her door.
My sock, something’s wrong
with my sock, moans one voice.
And, Give it back, give it back now,
begs another, so full of longing
that I want to find its owner,
reach into my pants pocket,
empty its contents into
the speaker’s hands, hope
that, among the five quarters,
scrap of paper with a phone number,
burned-out Christmas bulb,
Tootsie Roll wrapper, maybe,
just maybe, he may find
what he’s lost.  My sister
has grown deaf to these voices.
She grips her bedrails,
grimaces, pulls herself closer
to me, the effot making her
shake as if some fist
is pounding on the door of her
body.  Do you want a drink?
I ask.  No, she says.
Are you warm enough? I ask.
She nods, closes her eyes.
Should I change the channel?
I ask.  No, she says again.
Then silence as she drifts
like a vagrant kite on a windy
day.  I wonder if she dreams
her body whole, climbs through
the window of her room, begins
walking down the road, between
the snowbanks, under the moon.
Maybe she meets other people
who tell her about the things
they can’t find.  Socks.  Cocker spaniels.
Birthday cards.  Wives.  Poems.
Husbands.  Photographs.  Friends.
The road is crowded with loss.
But they all keep moving, like pilgrims
on some cold Easter morning, hoping
to meet the one who will have
directions, will know how to get home.

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