Letting Go of a Good Life
I was sitting in an office the other day and spotted an hourglass on the desk. I had to turn it over just to watch the grains slowly fall, piling up in a little mountain. I thought about how time passes, slipping away faster each day.
Today marks 13 years since we said goodbye for the last time. Thanksgiving dinner was the last meal you ate. November was the last month you lived. An ICU bed was the last place you laid your head. My voice was the last voice you heard.
I remember the last book you were reading. The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty. I remember sitting in your living room while you went on and on about how much you loved her language. I don’t think I was paying attention.
The book was a premonition of our ending. In the book, the judge fails to recover from surgery and dies slowly in the hospital. His daughter reads him Dickens as he slowly slips away. Is that how you wanted to go?
Those months in the hospital were so hard. I wanted you to improve. To sit up. To stand. To speak. To swallow. I was desperate. Please, please, please. But I couldn’t fix this.
When you lost words you wrote me notes. I read you the New York Times. I read to you from your books. I could see on your face how badly you wanted to speak to me. But we didn’t need anymore words. We already knew it all.
I knew I had all of your love. I benefited from all of your wisdom. We had years. 30 years, 11 months and 9 days to be precise. And almost all of them were truly beautiful.
It was your quiet confidence that people gravitated toward. You were the smartest one in the room but you never let on. You never took the upper hand unless you had to take control. It was complete confidence. An unrelenting sense of self-assurance. When my hand was in your hand, I was safe.
But you called me wild. You called me fearless. And you would laugh because you loved it.
I was a fascinating adventure after a lifetime of adventures. You never thought of me as a challenge because you were intrigued. You wondered how my mind worked. You wondered what I would do next.
Because you never doubted me, I never doubted myself. I could try anything and you would smile and tell me why I was brilliant to even make the attempt. There is no way you always thought I was right, but you never let on.
I know you had things you wanted for me. I wish you had longer to see what I would become. To read what I am writing.
I was the last person to speak to you on this earth. I remember the words I said. It is going to be alright because I know heaven is real. Your mother is waiting. Your brothers and sisters and all of your friends are waiting. You are going to be so warm and loved and taken care of. I promise. And I am going to be ok. You can let go. But I didn't think you could still hear me.
Until I saw the tears stream down your face.
The monitor stopped pulsing and that electronic line went flat. It didn’t matter because I knew you were already gone.
I remember how hard we would laugh sitting at your kitchen table. I remember all the vocabulary words and the crossword puzzles. The trashy New York City t-shirts you would buy for me. I remember your terrible cooking. And I remember your complete acceptance of me for exactly who I am.
Days like today, I remember how I was your girl. You were the optimist and I was your daughter.