What a pleasure to discuss Now You See the Sky and Chan’s story with Rob Caldwell on News Center Maine last month.
These days, fourteen years later, I always think I’m done. I think I don’t miss him anymore. And usually, I don’t. It’s over. That life was so long ago.
Then it’s December, a few days after his brother’s birthday, a few days before Christmas. I don’t know what’s hitting me at first. At first I’m just mad at my lover. I’m distant he says. He doesn’t understand what he’s done. I don’t either, so I make things up. I knew this was too good to be true. I’ll always be alone. But after a while of this attempt to make him the reason I feel so bad, I remember. Oh yes. The date. This damn date. December 21st. And the memories push in. The middle of the night moments when my boy took his last breaths.
And I tell my lover now, and the tears that I’ve been holding in with my emotionless distance slide down as I realize the remembering. The indelible pictures of my boy’s last night with us muscle their way forward. The creak of the rough floorboards as I came and went from his side. The rustle of the sleeping bag I pulled over his failing body before I left for a sip of the dark night sky, a glimpse of the moon. The feel of his hair, silky under my palm as I held his head, warm under my hand for what I didn’t know would be the last time. The rattling of his shell drying out, dying out. The glow of the candle above the bed. The hands of the clock almost at the half hour past one a.m. when he took his last breath. The way we rocked him between us in our arms, our empty arms.
And the pain is so much now that I come and go from cold and distant to hot and sad and remembering. I say I need to be alone, but I don’t leave. And my patient beloved asks me to tell him the story, and I don’t want to. But I do. But only a little. Little pieces. I’m so tired of all of it.
This cat and mouse. This playing with the pain. This trying to hide from it. This opening little windows to it. This has been my life since then. For fourteen years. Only now there’s more space between the openings. There’s more room for other things than the pain. A lot more room. But still it comes. This day of the year it comes. And I remember.
Catharine H. Murray, Author of Now You See the Sky
I find the Uber before midnight in the too-bright layers of cement and air parking garage.
I am plane-squeezed empty, underslept, zapped in from other coast.
Driver slides us down the highway current.
City approaches. We enter in.
Nearly fourteen years since I’ve been here
where my son was sick before he died,
Where his younger brother, healthy, was born.
It was so long ago that I am not who I was then,
but when the driver carries me up and down these dark streets, light-punched awake,
Bits of that life swim up to greet me:
That small store where their father didn’t speak
while we searched for snacks for cranky boys one sunny afternoon.
The corner at the end of 15th where I walked the stroller
when I needed to get that far from home.
24th where I remember the exact words that took the tension from a certain conversation.
Are memories when they surface still memories or something real?
And that strange ache of how hard it all was and how much we loved each other
the tired now.
I’m delighted to share that my friend, classmate and colleague, Dr. Anne Hallward of Safe Space Radio is providing a podcast for the education of health care providers. Her 22-minute interview with me will be featured in the Death and Dying section of the course. To check out the podcast go to https://safespaceradio.com/education/ To listen to the original interviews with me, click: https://safespaceradio.com/?s=catharine+murray and https://safespaceradio.com/?s=katie+murray