Nov 1, 2012

Come back

The River Corrib, on my way to campus.
I got out of bed this morning because I promised K I would go to school for one day.  I washed my hair, too, and it feels light and clean but is falling out in clumps.  Something told me it wouldn't be responsible of me to bike to class, so I walked and stopped a few times along the way because my calves were cramping.  It was a long walk and I vaguely remember a classmate passing me at one point.  She offered a few quick remarks - the ones people give because they don't know what else to say.  I know you meant well, friend, but you said, "time heals" and the rage bubbled up like kettle steam.  You're lucky that I was using all of my energy to focus on the walking.

It felt surreal to be in class; everyone was making the usual lewd jokes and carrying on intelligent discussions about a book I stopped reading on Sunday.  But 11 am finally came along, whereupon my professor walked my dazed little body to his colleague's office.  A kind woman named M made me tea and - thank goodness - did not say that "time heals", but that "time helps you get used to it".  She said she was proud of me for finally leaving the house (thank you for understanding how much effort it took), and then she asked about the funeral.

I missed it, M - it was Tuesday afternoon.  Cremation.  How do you do that, I wonder - reduce a whole person and a whole life to ashes in a jar?  
Here's one friend's response:
What is the difference between ashes in a jar or a corpse in a ground?  Nothing can reduce [her] life.  It is preserved in the hearts and memories of those who loved her.  And her spirit is free of that sick body.
Visiting a jar is different from visiting a grave.  You can't set a candle near ashes the same way that you can set them at a headstone.  I know I should respect her decision...but this is robbery.  Cremation just feels like a selfish move.

I don't take issue with the rest, though...I have memories to last a lifetime and more, and her body is so very sick.  But that body is a fighting body, and when I say "reduce", I mean it literally.  How can you transform a fighting body into bits and pieces that, given half a chance, would float away with the wind?  I couldn't say goodbye because I'm stuck here.  That's not fair of you.  Why did you leave before I could?

You called me your "doctor" since I started at Union, and I always protested, saying I had years yet before that would be appropriate.  Your reply was always that it was a done deal since I signed that contract, so why not get used to the title now itself?  Why not?  Well, here's what I think: you were supposed to see me graduate medical school and wear a real white coat.  At that point, I would've let you call me "doctor" because it would've been true.

What's the matter with you?  I never left you - why would you leave me before I could use my MD to fix your fighting heart?

And you were supposed to be at my wedding, too.  You were supposed to meet this man you'd love on and call "son", this man who would "plight me his troth" (oh, the language!) in a beautiful church I found in February.  Oh, this place...I miss it so.  It's not a Catholic church, but I hope you'll forgive me once you see the joy it brings me.  We'll drive there, just you and I.  We'll take our time so you can absorb the other New York that I've fallen for.  It's not the city; this is different for sure, but it's peace.  It's a 25-minute drive from my school, just so you know, but it's worth it because God is always there.  His promises - the ones I struggle to believe right now - always shine for me in that church.  It simply bursts with those promises - and music that wakes my heart.  You should hear the music.

Come back and you'll see what I mean.

You always said you couldn't wait to meet my friends.  My friends have been taking care of your doctor, you know - writing her notes, making her tea, trying their best to send hugs from three thousand miles away.  I want you to meet them.  They're such blessings, these friends, even as I wonder what on earth is going on.  They don't say much that's useful, really, but they're trying to help me weep.  And I love them.

Come back so you can love them, too.

And don't you remember when I called you at the end of August to tell you I was going to Ireland for a little while?  You were so excited for me, asking what it would be like.  You asked me to send pictures, and I promised I would because C had just sent me my very own camera.  Don't you remember when, during that call, I mentioned that I'd found a place - a warm sanctuary with red carpeting where I'd decided you would watch me take my vows?

Come back and you can sit front and center.

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