Concealed within daylight,
the dead emerge to work
the fields of night.John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory (p. 57).
I didn't need Einstein to tell me time is relative. With sorrow, this understanding becomes embodied.
During the last 18 months, I have forgotten the steady click of a clock, how to anticipate the calendar, the way daylight grows stronger and then wanes.
I have lost track of the moon.
100 days spent in hospitals curved time and collapsed it--until leaving at 2 a.m. and returning with the next spread of daylight was more normal than not. During that last stay, Rob's sense of reality grew tenuous. After a large morphine dose, he thought he was a teenager living in his two family home in Brooklyn. I spoke with the oncologist explaining that one other time when Rob was given morphine, he became delusional. The oncologist asked me to bring photographs and an afghan from home explaining that long hospital stays can disorient a patient and he then switched Rob to dilaudid.
By the time Rob was moved to palliative care, he forgot he was dying. He was so very lost.
Arriving home to die was sorrowful and joyful. After 50 days in the hospital, Rob delighted at being being among familiar things. I placed his hospital bed in the corner of the family room between two large windows. He would tell me the first morning he was home how it had been too long since the sunlight could warm his skin.
There are all kinds of ways to measure time passing.
The first three days, Rob was able to communicate. Each day I cooked for him and he pushed the food about the plate, sampling a bit. That Friday, he would eat his last meal. I used to know what he ate, but now I cannot recall.
By the next day, I thought he would die. He was in and out of a deep sleep. I fed him water through a dropper all morning and by afternoon, he rallied.
Sunday found him sitting up in bed and singing songs from the 60s with Jane, Robyn, and Jack. He and I held hands as we sang I Want To Hold Your Hand.
He was dopey, alive, and he wanted me to kiss him again and again.
And I did.
As February became March, he edged towards death. I had wished for long, long February days in a vain attempt to slow the inevitable. But as I watched him begin to suffer and as I tired, I wished for a swifter end.
It's okay, I would tell him, I will take care of Devon. We'll be okay. You can go.
What I could not know then, was that I too was lost and after the memorial service and the shock began to wane I woke to find spring had arrived and gone. My husband had been dead for more than four months and I had difficulty accounting for the time.
These days, I wish I prayed better. I wish I might recall a prayer or two from my youth--those I used to know by heart.
Tonight the moon is half gone, half here. In a week, it will be full.
I once told time by the moon.
Now I listen to it.
Last month, NASA announced the discovery of 7 Earth-sized exoplanets, less than 40 lightyears away and I thought of Rob a year dead. He would have explained to me the distance, the significance, but for now--I have no yardstick.
Everything feels far away.
With the universe expanding, I sometimes wonder if heaven isn't the dark matter we know exists, but cannot see. Is that where Rob is? Or perhaps he's waiting on one of those exoplanets revolving around that dim single star
just beyond our solar system,
just beyond here.