Gone

I opened my Facebook page, intending to read something amusing to my mother, who was on the phone with me from her hospital bed. “Oh! I said, “There’s a message…But I’m not sure who it’s from.” To which my mother replied, “Go ahead and read it.” So I did.

The message was brief, with no slow build-up to its content, no easing me into the words I was about to read. There was only an “I’m sorry” and a misspelled word that jumped out at me, before I read the whole sentence. It said, “Shari was kill in a motorcycle accident.” I furrowed my brow and read it again. And then I slumped backward, shrieking and shaking and crying, still holding onto the phone as my mother asked, “What happened?” She asked again and then pleaded for an answer, until I finally heard her, when she yelled out the words. I forced myself to sit still, took a deep breath and said slowly, with precise diction, “Shari has died.” Then I said I had to go.

The next twenty minutes were lost to the kind of cry that’s come over me only once before, on the day my father died. I had been by his side when he took his last breath and remember driving away from the hospital, as the clouds changed shape and the colors around me bled and for a moment I thought, “Is this a flashback?” I knew it wasn’t, as sure as I knew I just needed to make it home. I drove carefully, gripping the steering wheel tightly, because that wheel was the only thing holding me upright.

When I finally reached my driveway and turned off the engine, I made it out of my car, into the back door, past the cat in the kitchen and onto the living room rug, where my legs buckled beneath me and I crashed to my knees, hands and forehead. Sounds came out of me that I never knew existed, sounds I was making that were beyond my control. A howling, a bleating, a wrenching cry from deep inside me; it was so powerful my torso rolled on its current. I remember I thought briefly, “What will the neighbors think?” But even if I cared, there was nothing I could do. I surrendered to my sorrow and my aching agony, until I was finally still and whimpering and totally exhausted.

It’s been a few evenings since I read that brief message. I’m calm, now. And numb. And I know I need time. I’m being gentle with myself, putting one foot in front of the other, hour by hour, day by day. I make progress, but then I’ll trip over a memory and begin crying again, holding onto whatever’s nearby for support. My history with Shari stretches back for decades, so there are many reminders and they’re everywhere. They’re in the vase on my dresser, in the cupboard with my flowers petals, in a photo on my refrigerator, in the scent on my skin. But Shari’s not here, anymore, she’s gone. And I just want her back.

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