Saturday, April 19, 2008

When you became a 'was'

I was reading some old blog posts of mine today and I noted that on December 22, 2007 I wrote about my brother. At that time he was still alive and I referred to him in the present tense. (He is 47 years old. He is a strong man.) It seemed almost immediate for us all to begin to relate to him in the past tense. (He was only 47 years old. He was like a mighty oak cut down too early.)

It is instantaneous, that transition. I have noticed it at work, too. When a patient dies they IMMEDIATELY switch from “Mr. Smith” to “the body” as if their humanity left in that last single heartbeat. The weird and inescapable truth about it, though is this: I was there when his humanity left and to me he is still as real as he ever was. I don’t care how dead you are, you are still my brother. I don’t care if you died or not, I can still love you.

My heart physically hurts since you left. I have this phrase that I use, “you’ll see a Cyndi-shaped hole in the door” to indicate that cartoonish opening in a door that an animated character inevitably uses to exit a scene. It seems to me that there is a Jim-shaped hole in my heart, a perfect puzzle piece in the shape of him.

While I watched you die I held my breath, thinking that maybe I could give some of mine to you. I’m so sorry that it didn’t work. It will be the most profound failure of my life that I wasn’t able to save you.

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