I’m sitting on the curb talking on the phone to my friend whose dad has just died. It’s hot outside and I’m holding the remnants of a popsicle in my hand.
At first, the friend isn’t really even talking. He’s just making guttural choking sounds and I’m praying they start turning into words.
Drowning in sorrow, I think in my head.
Then he speaks and I stare at the flowers in front of me. Not really flowers, more like reeds or wild sticks - the swamp of Chicago desperately putting on a bouquet.
It’s hard, so hard, he says. But when he went, he went with such a grace, a release. I, I’m dealing with my own selfish wanting of him, but he knew what he wanted, what had to happen. He knew, and then he went away.
Wow, I say. Because I don’t know what else to say and I want him to keep talking.
When he went, my brother and I lost it, we were beside ourselves. But, even until that point, through all our crying and sobbing, he was serene. He’d take us in his arms, hold us, pat our backs. But then he’d look at us with this look that said, ‘I know how hard this is for you, and I sympathize, but for me, it is easy, It’s the only way.’
I don’t know how to say this, but I feel like in the past 24 hours, he’d shown more dignity and courage and fearlessness than he had his entire life. It took until the final hours of his life, but I’ve never seen such bravery. At this place in my life, I can’t even fathom a strength like that.
Wow, I whisper. And this time the wow is a reaction, not just a filling of space. ‘Wow.’ An exhale. A breath.
One of many I take and continue to take as the swamp reeds blow and my friend nods towards exhausted sleep. And the other night walkers on the street breeze by.