By Megan Devine.
I relive our last week again and again.
Every single week is a count-down. Every Monday is that Monday, the day you came home from Colorado. The day I left work to pick you up at the airport, even though you insisted you would be fine to walk, with your orange backpack and new Tevas, happy to be walking. Every Monday is your first Monday back, going to dinner. You are so excited to see me. We sit together on the wooden bench, you showing me photos on your phone: here is the place where we stopped to look out at the mountains below. Here is a shot of the cabin where I stayed. Here is the old truck they used to drive around the ranch. And look, babe: I knew you’d appreciate this one – look, it’s a mummified antelope. It’s been dead in the desert so long. I knew you’d want to see the bones.
Every Monday, I live it again, sitting there in the pizza place, wondering why I am distant and tired. Wondering if it is just food, just needing to eat. And I look at you, feel your body close to mine, and I know it’s just the food and the long day, and the clients, and all of everything. Because you, you here next to me, hearing the joy in your voice, the affection in your touch, this is where I want to be.
I live it again every Tuesday, as we both return to work. As I call you from the awful discount store on my lunch break, wondering if I should pick up plastic glasses, since you keep breaking the heavy glass ones on the hard tile floor. “No,” you say, “No. We’ll be purging stuff and packing soon anyway, no sense getting anything new.” We’ll be moving soon.
On Wednesday, each Wednesday, I forget what that Wednesday held. We talked, we worked, we had our life. I relive living that, even when I don’t remember what we did.
Every Thursday, that Thursday, you are here on the couch, your work day still not done, our computers propped open on our laps as you ask me to help you format your new invoices. The cat climbs up in your lap, shoving the computer aside. On Thursday, each Thursday, I relive our closeness on the couch, how much easier it is now to help you with computer things, your old tech-defensiveness gone. Just a by-product of goodness, I think then, and I think again. We are so happy now, so comfortable. Things are going well. So many good things coming.
On Friday, you are working late, you’ve said you’re working late. But you call just as I am going to the grocery store, and you decide to come along. We buy mint chip ice cream, laundry detergent. Dog biscuits, greens, ribs. We buy a roasted chicken, because it’s late, and we haven’t eaten yet.
At home, I start dinner – leftovers, fajitas – while you climb in the shower. I cook peppers and sing. You come out, that last Friday, our Friday, warm from the shower, in your light blue long sleeved shirt that shows your muscles, your indigo sarong around your waist. You wonder why I waited to chop the onions – “they would be done by now,” you say. And I stop. Smile at you. Say, as we’ve been working on: “you are always particular about your onions. I guess I figure it’s easier on me to delay dinner, to have you irritated with my not making a decision, than it is to hear your disappointment. To have you wish I’d done it differently.” You smile. Lift an eyebrow. You say, “yeah, you’re right. I do do that.”
And then we stand, at the counter, your back to the window, and you fold me in your arms, still warm and damp, my head on your shoulder, in just that right spot. And we breathe. Our bellies matching. The firmness of your abs against me, your arms tight around my back. We stand. That Friday. That Friday I re-live. That place I want to be.
On Saturday, each Saturday, this always only Saturday, I am up first. As I wait, I watch the two of you, still sleeping, the long galley view from where I sit: me in the kitchen, the dog in the living room, you in our bed, all of us in a row. When you’re up, we make breakfast. We discuss the books we’ve each just read. Your mother calls. We all do the happy dance about your son turning 18 in three days. “We’re almost there!” your mother says. “I have three days to go,” you say, “don’t jinx me yet.”
And Sunday comes. Sunday keeps on coming. It arrives every week. Every week I live it all again. The previous days, the eternal warm-up, the countdown, that last time, the last.
On Sunday, you say, “bring or wear water shoes, we’ll go to the river with Bo.” We have breakfast at our usual place: fried green tomato BLT, pancakes, hash. You hold my hands across the table. You say, “I’m sorry I’ve had to work so much. I promise, after this week, we’ll have a normal life again. I’ll take weekends off. I’m sorry I’ve been away from you.” As we leave the diner, you trip on the flopping, separating edge of your new shoes. Hands on your hips, forehead creased, long deep irritated sigh. “We’ll take them back, babe. It will be alright,” I tell you. I tell you about your broken shoes which may or may not have gotten stuck on some reeds, holding you down in the hours to come.
This Sunday, every Sunday, we go back and pick up Bo. Bo who dances and squeals and paces waiting for the door to open, waiting for us to bound into the car, waiting for the river to open up in front of him. Waiting for us to play. We drive to the river, windows open, your arm out the driver’s side, Boris’ head wedged between your shoulder and the door. That Sunday, right now, you ask me how most dogs die, having never had one of your own before. We talk. We’re us. I tell you some dogs know it is their time, and they wander off into the woods. You smile. Scratch his head. You say, “that’s how you’ll get to go buddy, just walk off when you know.”
I live this every week. Every week the countdown. Every time we touch. Every time we talk. Every day, the last day. Not knowing anything except us and love and sunshine, and our plans, and what we expect to come.
Every Sunday, right now, you carry our chairs through the woods. Every Sunday, right now, we wade through the high water that has covered the forest floor. Every Sunday, this Sunday, right now, we play, up to our waists in pine-needle-filled dark water, throwing the ball for the dog. Every Sunday, I worry. I look for Boris when he disappears. And every Sunday. Every Sunday, right now, you call to me from the water’s edge, saying, “don’t worry about him here babe, he’s in heaven.”
Now, you turn away from me again. Now, that Sunday, every Sunday, now, you turn away from me again. Right now, Boris has come back, and he and I are playing in the woods. Now, right now, sitting on the couch watching the numbers tick on by, now, right now, you come up for air and cough. On Sunday, and Sunday, every Sunday, I wonder if you need some help. On Sunday, I turn away, refusing to think that thought. And now, right now, this Sunday, that Sunday, here I am, looking back as you call out. Looking back. Here I am. And now, right now, there you are, holding on to the top of a tree, trying hard to keep your grip. And now, right now, here I am, running in to the water after you.
And now, right now, here I am, running in to the water after you.
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It felt like you are telling my story. I go over that last day every day, remembering every detail, yet feeling like I forgot someting.
Wow is all I can say
Some seriously excellent writing. I’m so sorry for your loss.
thank you Danielle and Barbara.
You are welcome Megan. (Jen’s mom)
Wow. Your writing is incredible but your story is devastatingly heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing. Much love.
you’re welcome Erin, and thank you.
Thank you for sharing your story. I often count down the last 4 days in my dads life, funny how our minds are set on repeat like that. You really do have a gift though.
Im so sorry for your loss.
Thank you, Tricia.
I don’t remember the days like you, just moments. The last “normal” day before the diagnosis. The hug right after the diagnosis. The moments of total aloneness after she’s gone. Sometimes the wonderful moment when I wake up after a beautiful dream of her. I’ve never thought of these moments as reliving them. But after reading your beautiful piece, I realize that’s what I’ve been doing. Thank you.
you’re so welcome, Mary.
Though very different, I remember almost every detail of our final week together…and yes, I relive it often. You are one powerful writer, Megan.
thank you Mary.
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This is beautiful writing, Megan! I, too, have vivid memories of those last days and moments of “before” in our family’s life, before water took our son.
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Thanks for sharing your story Megan. Your writing is excellent and painted a visual picture in my mind. I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. I found myself feeling anxious/emotional as I was reading, because I knew what the days were leading to. I read something else that you wrote recently, where you said your life now is beautiful — though different. You give me hope that I can get there too one day.
thank you Megan – painful, achingly sad, scary, beautiful… I wonder if the “last full week” reliving is more possible with sudden deaths than with the slower but inevitable death by cancer, with loss of everything over months… Someone else above mentioned that they remember the last good day, the day before the diagnosis, the moments after… My experience is like that with Mike. I remember last love making, last holiday, last meal out… the dates are scattered over weeks and months. One day I will write up my lasts, and Mike’s last hours… it’s much less scary than yours and just sad in a different and terrifying way.
I can only gasp……it makes me relive my own trauma on loosing my son of 30 years. I still gasp. If I could only hug you….Elizabeth