and a year of uphill climbing
crumbles in an instant…
and the future careens
as a front runner
ready to be shot down by a sniper's bullet
aimed at the good life
Scott, 1993 Poem, New York Tears
No matter what anyone says, nothing can truly prepare one for the death of a loved one. We had fought a long and desperate battle for Scott's health, and the severity of his condition would have been obvious to anyone, but I still simply could not imagine living in a world without him. I could not imagine him dead.
Yet here I was, now alone in the home we had shared, and his body had been taken away by the businesslike men in the ill-fitting brown suits for cremation. (He had joked that he wanted his body to be taxidermied and set in the rocking chair in our bedroom, because he'd be damned if he'd let me bring another into the bed that we'd shared. But still, I'd watched the loaded hearse pull out of our driveway, leaving me feeling more alone than ever.) Though I knew he was gone my heart was as full of love for him today as the day before, when he was alive, and I had no idea what to do with myself. In my very soul, I felt displaced.
People who have lost their hearts here on Earth find themselves on an intense journey, with no map to guide them through the darkness, no ultimate destination certain, and no estimated time of arrival. The primary reality of the experience is pain, new and different levels of pain as the process unfolds, and its only certainty a knowledge that the person you used to be is now forever gone. Grief unfolds stubbornly, according to its own ancient and terrible wisdom, and all one can do is get through it.
The days and weeks following Scott's death are now a blur to me. Confronted with an experience as painfully vast as the loss of the one I most loved, I immediately passed into a state of deep shock. I had suddenly lost the closest witness to my life, a rich bank of memories, and, most painfully, the only other speaker of our private language. Faced with the challenge of my lifetime I stood alone on unsteady feet, without the comfort or assistance of my partner in life. My devastation too great to handle, I could see no light at the end of the tunnel, imagine no balm for my wounded heart. It was as if I had, through instinct, descended at the moment of Scott's death into a thick cloud in order to survive. In the days and months that followed, I began to emerge from that cloud little by little, each realization about the ramifications of Scott's death carrying me to the outside limits of my capacity for pain.
On top of my pain, I felt somewhat ridiculous. How can it be, I wondered, that my love for Scott goes on unabated even though he's no longer here? Shaken to the deepest core of my being, I found myself terrified and wanting to cling to him. In retrospect, I only wanted to reclaim what was mine, to make myself whole. After all, Scott had taken my heart with him when he went, wherever he had gone. The questions with which I burned for him also raged for me. Where was Scott now, if anywhere, and where had his soul gone? Where was I, and mine? What exactly had happened to him, and to me, and where were we each to go from here? How could it possibly be right that I should remain here on Earth when Scott was no longer here? Hadn't some terrible mistake been made? Was I not meant to go with him? There were still those I loved very much on Earth, and they had circled around me in strong support, but still I wondered why I'd been left behind. In one terrible instant, everything had been instantly and irrevocably changed. Where was now my home?
Scott's death, it seemed, had done nothing but leave me vulnerable and highly exposed, confronted by a vast number of unanswerable questions. The door had been suddenly and forever slammed shut on the life we'd shared together, and the love I had held dear. My disorientation was heightened by the amnesia that now seemed to take from me my memories about the object of my love. Though I had tended Scott until the time of his death, grown with him over the years before and shared experiences too numerous and rich to recount, I suddenly could not remember what he looked like. Neither could I remember the sound of his voice, his laughing, kind, gentle, playful voice. My God, I anguished, am I going crazy? The one consolation I sought, the refuge of sweet memory, was being denied to me. The cruelty was too much to bear.
To Chapter 6