"Yeah," he says. He's quiet. "I hope I didn't do this to her." What do you say? Maybe you just cry. Mom's in the kitchen doing the crying for us. Dad responds to him - with what, I won't remember.
He doesn't want to go back there to see her. He won't say this, but it's too much, too much. Too much white; too much sadness, anxiety; too many people; too much reality. He'll live his next six months in denial.
Our last phone call was from the middle of nowhere, a farm outside Memphis. She called from the hospital. Weak, but making little of it, just like she always did. Making little of herself is what got her here in the first place.
Things are better, she said. But she stopped hearing me, bad signal. It's okay, I heard her say. We'll talk soon.
That was the last time, the very last time.
I come here to her bedside a little every day, singing, praying, holding steady. But I know where we are headed.
We're gonna lose her.
So, I sing.
It's gone on longer than it should have, we all know this. Still, the day comes, the day of endings. The end of life, of waiting, of false hope. The end of knowing her in life. And though we don't know it yet, the beginning of his end.
Did he ever really understand? Of course he did, he understood more than any of us could. He knew her leaving in her absence, in body, in loss of the care she gave. There was nothing she hadn't touched. He knew because the picture frame of his life, their life, had been broken. He could stand no longer.
We're gonna lose him.
Now, I'm kneeling by his bedside, singing into his ear, hoping he can hear me through the blanket of deafness that long ago covered him. And I know, I feel, that he's died long before his death. A shell of a man remains.
I loathe this white room, void of beauty, sound, reality. There's human kindness, to be sure, but even we humans cannot overcome the loss of identity that has taken place for him here. Nothing in this room is of him.
So he finishes the task.
He is gone.
I know you now in death. In memory, character, pictures. I know you, in many ways, more truly and clearly, now that I have only endless remembering. I see things that couldn't be seen when only eyes could see. I know things that couldn't be known when only information passed between us, when I watched you in real time. I hear things that my once closed ears couldn't hear, but now are ringing with your truth, your wisdom.
I have you now, maybe even more fully, than I've ever had you.
When the grief rushes in, I welcome her. It is then that you are mine.