warm. so warm. like a furnace.
Yesterday a very loved man left us. Someone who left an imprint on my life. But not one left in the sand, that quickly washes away when the tide comes. One that was written in permanent marker. Scrawled on my insides, and on my heart.
I woke up early Sunday morning to Bob softly stirring me awake. His words.. "Your aunt called, she said you might want to get there soon to say goodbye."
I was still in a dream like state, I had to ask him a few times what he had said. I got dressed and realized I was freezing. I wished I could hop in a hot shower before I left, but knew there was no time. I dressed in a t-shirt, with a long sleeve shirt over it, and then grabbed one of my warmest pieces of clothing. My puffy vest.
I got in my car, and cranked on the heat. "Why am I so cold?" There I was taking a short drive to where I would find the man I would go bowling with every Monday morning for years. I would find him, not as I left him.
I glanced around the room and found all eyes on me. Their glances all indicated it was my turn to enter the room. The furnace. It was my turn with him, to say goodbye. To tell him I loved him. My words choked in my throat, so I whispered it in his ear. "I love you." Where were his hands? The hands I held every time I saw him. The hands that were drastically curved at the knuckles. That were riddled and a perfect sign of his disease that ate him whole, chewed him up and spit him out on this bed.
They were tucked under the blanket, grasping the bed. I took a few minutes with him, and then took my place in the room with everyone else. We planted ourselves in and let the roots seep down deep. Others came in through the morning to say their goodbyes, just as I had. Some goodbye's were tear stained, some quiet. Some with laughter remembering all the good times.
We all just stood fixed in place. Muttering to each other, but in the fore front of our minds we knew what would be happening soon. As people would talk to me, I put my mind on auto pilot and spoke, but it all felt like quiet background noise. I heard myself responding, but can't for the life of me remember who I was talking to, or what we were saying.
A blessing was given, we all sat quietly sobbing, clutching our Kleenexes, wadding them up and stuffing them in our pockets or in nearby trash cans. "Man, it's hot in here, I can barely breath."
We waited. Watched him take deep, sudden breaths. The women in the room gathered around the bed, tending to him like nursemaids. Then one at a time the children of this man stood by him and expressed words only meant for him. They each hugged him, and said their official goodbyes. We watched, we paced, made phone calls, tried to comfort each other, while we waited for him. A beautiful thing to have your family and loved ones gathered. I can't imagine a better way to go. Closure for everyone there. Strength in numbers.
I sat staring in the hallway. I had puttered out of the room to get some fresh air, to breath. Why do I still have my puffy vest on? As puffy as my tear stained eyes. I can hear myself agreeing with others it's hot. I unzip it, but can't bear to take it off. I need the heat. It comforts me. I realize after a few minutes I have unknowingly zipped it back up and have wandered back into the furnace.
I find the man with his hands above the covers. I am drawn back to the bedside. I need to say my real goodbye. I grasp his soft hands and say goodbye without words. My official goodbye. After this, I know that's the last time I will touch those hands while they are still warm with blood flowing through them. I suppose the last thing I will do at the viewing is take his hands in mine and find very different hands. Lifeless.
I could hear myself saying how hot it was. How I could barely breath. Still the vest stays on, and I gravitate to the room. After a while of pacing, we are finally all called into the room. He only has a few minutes left. We all root ourselves back in, and cry. Some cry louder than others. Some try to keep it together. But make no mistake, we all cry. He takes his last breath, and goes.
An empty shell remains. We all cry. I look around the room for strength. Is my brother crying? He can't be. He rarely does that. Sure enough, a man who normally only shows strength, has tears dropping from his eyes. Where's my dad? The man I look to every time to see how a situation should be handled. There he is crying. I understand it's okay to let my tears stream. I realize he's gone. He's really gone. It forces me to think of death. To realize he won't be there to help out to the car, his hand in mine. To have around for birthday's, holiday's, family time. No, he will no longer be a visual presence in our homes.
We wait, we ponder, we think on good times. And then I drag my drained body out to the car to drive home. I get in the car and turn on the heat full blast. I crave that warmth. When I get home I draw a hot bath, and cry. My Grandaddy's gone.