Saturday, January 14, 2017

#SOL17: Sunlit Absence

from my art journal

There was a sunlit absence. 
 - Seamus Heaney


A year ago Rob was transported from the hospital where he had undergone neurosurgery to an acute rehab where he was to learn how to stand and walk again. This transfer would mark his end.

Six days earlier the neurosurgeon had told me that a sizable space had opened between the metastatic tumors that were compressing Rob's spine and the affected vertebrae and that this movement looked promising. More promising to me were the oncologist's words when he explained that Rob would not have been allowed to undergo the spinal surgery had he not at least 6 to 12 months to live. I clung to the one year mark, quickly dismissing the mention of 6 months and this new calendar became a truth. 

A year felt indulgent. 
A year had my giddy.

Because Rob's health had deteriorated so quickly, we had spent the months since the diagnosis responding to crises.  We had not lived in ways that were familiar. And Rob had passed from his very able self in late August to a man who first needed a cane, then a walker, then a transport chair, to not being able to move his lower torso and legs at all.  All of this in less than 4 months.

But on that Friday in mid January the prognosis gave us a small measure of peace. A mere three weeks later we would learn that time was not so gracious and Rob would die 20 days beyond that. 


In the weeks preceding Rob's death, love became more pure, more of a singular impulse. It was as if love was equally a centripetal force binding us together and a centrifugal force that revealed defining differences. 

Cohesion and discordance.

Beyond the first floor of our home the world faded. After almost 6 months of rush and response and 100 days in hospital stays--there were no appointments to meet. No hard hospital chairs to wait in. No pulse and spit of breathing machines. No last attempts to save my husband's life. 

The facades that had insulated us from the knowledge of Rob's mortality were lifted. Here, in the sunny corner of our family room, there could be no denying that Rob was dying Each day his body curled more and more into his center self revealing ever widening spaces between here and there, life and death. The sheer love we had made across the decades rose up around us. A trellis of good intentions. 


My memory of these days is mostly unreliable. The details are a mix of what might have been and what I most wanted or could bear. What I best recall a year later is more impressionistic, more translucent.

Color and heat.
Stasis and movement.

Nearing death is a paradox: part mystery, part old friend you have forgotten--a transfer of energy between the known and the unknown.

It was as if the very molecules that made up Rob's body were in transition--a visual ballet I somehow could sense--even as the emotional distance between Rob and me became more acute. My husband was busy with matters I could not see, do not know. Now and then he would partially narrate what life beyond the confines of this mortal world was like. But these too became less and less until there was only breath. And then not.


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