Absence

by Danielle Charles

To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it:
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
–Mary Oliver

Yesterday, my father took his last breath and passed from this world.  I can find comfort in the thought that there will not be any more pain, no more sadness and despair and panic to witness in his eyes. That we were there to hold his hand, to let our tears fall onto him as his heart beat its last song to our murmurs of love and gratitude and consoling.

I can find reprieve in the stories we told and will tell. Laughing about his quirks, finding now that the things that used to annoy us – jingling his change in his pockets, his impatience, his knack for getting irritable about little things –  are so endearing and wonderful now that we might give anything to experience them again.

But when I walk through the house and I see his empty bed – see the place he always sat on the couch, where the cushions are worn and sunken in – the keys to his car on the table, his jacket in the hall. When the realization awakens within me that I will never again hear his voice, touch his hand, see him smile – something gives way within me that there are no words for. I hold it back because it feels if that dam of sadness and grief were to burst, it would shatter me in two. So I move through the hours with my heart in a vice grip, wondering to myself, how can this be, how can this be? Expecting that any minute now, I will hear his footsteps in the hall and my heart will never have to grasp this truth that seems wholly ungraspable.

And I realize that absence has a presence too. A presence that sucks the breath out of me and begins to grow beside me – a thing that is so palpable that it cannot be escaped, but so fathomless it cannot be known.

Thank you to you all for your kind words through this, your support, your warmth, your understanding. They meant so much to me and still they help to carry me through the moments when the bottom falls out.