There is a new certainty about it, that is the thing that is different. And behind that sureness? Something steadfast and the loss of fear. The reason to talk about it with others, not so much insight as sight. There is no other way to see if, and when, something changes. Dialogue provides a reflection, a bounce back, an image. Anyway, whichever way, I can feel it now, as the date draws near…some shift in the recognition of Marlou’s death, and by extension, my own.
First, there is the sadness. In the shower this morning, conditions converged…perhaps because things were going well, solitary but well cared for by me…and this very shower chair being the site of yesterday’s gesture of caress to my own face…that and the nurturing warmth of the water spray…that it came out, the sadness at seeing someone die so young and in such agony. And the certainty? That it is okay. That something unspeakable can, and has, happened to someone else, that it can, and will, in some form, happen to me. Acceptance. Glib enough a description, yet what else is there?
Emotionally, there seems to be a downshifting from horror to sorrow. From panic to loss. Normalization. Literature provides a good glimpse, a first look at this. Laurie Lee as a small boy staring at the faces of the recently dead in his Gloucestershire village. Everything immediate and physical and down to earth, all of this displacing horror. And perhaps the most strongly counterbalancing experience since Marlou’s labored breathing stopped…and the nurse standing at the foot of the bed said matter-of-factly, by way of uninflected information, that there would be no more breaths. It was time to weep or stare in blank puzzlement…and either way, it was time. It was time, then and now, for relief. From pain. That it was over for the onlookers too. There is new certainty in that, as well. And that there is something transcendent in such a moment. What could it be? Clearing a hurdle, that is what currently comes to mind. Leaping over an obstacle between existence and nonexistence? Getting through an ordeal? Shutting up shop, pulling down the shutter, day’s work at an end. And what feels transcendent in the defeat of the organism? Maybe that life can exist at all. That the living state can go on for years, even decades, fighting off continuous microbial assault, playing Scrabble, safely crossing streets, oxygenating a billion cells.
I leaned forward in the shower to let the hot water needles penetrate my shoulder muscles. Ping away at the soreness that goes with having a body, even without age and musculoskeletal stress. A moment to slow down and be kind to the organism. Not automatic for me. Perhaps the only antidote to sorrow, gentle mercy. Which brought me back to this final agonizing week two years ago, and also to the small voyage one year ago. Marlou’s ashes dissolving as a gray watery cloud in Monterey Bay. In all of life applauding. Sea lions pounding their flippers. Cormorants diving in and out with fish. Pelicans swooping and ladling sea water skywards. The slippery sheen of harbor seals gliding past the boat’s hull. Chug, chug, a small contingent of mortals heading not very far west with a plastic box. Most faces weighed down with sadness, until the continuous balancing over the waves and the sparkling of the maritime day and its vast cast of mammal and avian actors moved the story in another direction. And the porpoises. I seem to have been the only one to see them. The sight of the fins curving in formation so perfect in sleekness and in timing, just as the boat turned at the last glimpse of the dissolving Marlou, that it might have been an hallucination. But it wasn’t. A vision. Mine.