|(M.A. Reilly, 2014)|
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream. - Wallace Stevens
It was just a spoonful of ice cream. Häagen-Dazs--coffee--to be precise. I had reached in for ice and stopped short as a rush of anxiety waved over me. For a bit of time, I just stood looking at the container, studying it as if it might reveal some hidden truth. And then, I was seeing beyond it, recalling it was the last thing I fed Rob three days before he died.
You want food? I asked Rob, so surprised to hear his request and oddly overjoyed. It was midday on Sunday and friends were over. Even though I knew that not eating was a normal part of dying it was so hard for me to honor this. If you came over next Sunday, one sure thing I would do would be to offer you food and drink.
I looked at him and noticed that he was nodding his head. I knew he hadn't eaten for more than two weeks and I worried how eating now might make him vomit and then thought about what food he could even swallow. He had a spoonful of ice cream the week before.
How about some coffee ice cream? I asked knowing it was his favorite.
Excellent, he told me in a voice that may well have belonged to a British Lord.
And so I fed him tiny bits of ice cream and he ate just about a large teaspoonful before signaling he was done.
When Rob came home from the hospital it was mid February. He stopped eating food by the fourth day. He lived another two and a-half weeks.
Simple acts are ladened by memories.
Last night, I closed the freezer door soundly knowing I could not eat, nor could I throw out the pint of ice cream. For now it just sits there. This is what it is like these days.
To be a widow is to be confounded.
Yet, the difficulty I find in making most decisions is tempered now and then by a stronger need to put my emotional house back in order. I want to decide on this pint but know that tonight this is a battle I will not take on. And so the ice cream remains in its spot in the freezer and I once again am feeling grateful to know somewhat--the limits that test me.
It might surprise you to know that the average widow here in the United States is in her early 50s. I imagined I was much younger than the average and now find that this commonness of age I share with so many others is oddly comforting.
Tonight, as I walk away from the freezer and out of the kitchen shutting the light behind me, I stop for just a bit knowing there are other women, elsewhere, widows just like me, staring into freezers unsure of what next to do. This is a sisterhood born out of death. This is a club no one wants to join, but most will.
Death of the man you loved--the man with whom you marked decades, raised children--this heartache cracks you open while demanding a new birth. And it is the complexities that cannot be unravelled regardless of effort that humbles me most.
I know so little.
Beauty is born from such vulnerability and love finds expression in that which perplexes us most.