Just keep breathing.
You can do this, you know you can, yes, breathe, in and out…
He was so handsome in his dress blues. His hat, called a lid, on his chest along with the white gloves. His sword at his side. My mother said, “Still my handsome Marine.”
An officer and a gentleman to the end.
I couldn’t touch him there in the casket. I just couldn’t. That other night, he was cold when I began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Cold. So wrong for him to feel that way. I realized and quit. Knowing it hopeless.
My father was always warm, his hugs enveloping me and spreading that warmth until it engulfed us both. He loved me. I him.
And he died.
Suddenly. It wasn’t expected. We didn’t see it coming. He was warm and breathing and then he was cold and still lying on the bathroom floor, lying in the casket in his dress blues. Hat, gloves, and sword. And medals. His medals a mess – we didn’t know how to arrange them. His Marine friend was too overcome with grief to do it for us. So they weren’t even pinned on. They were just sitting there. Not quite a jumble, but it was as wrong as his death.
Which was also right. He went out the way he wanted to. No lingering illness. No hospital. Fine and then dead.
My daddy is dead.
I remember the next morning lying on my bed trying to escape the pain. Trying not to think and finally just sinking into it. Letting the hot burning grief fill me. All his warmth was now a blaze of sadness. Yes, a blaze. Great leaps of flame touching every part of me. The little girl who sat on his lap. The teenager who rolled her eyes. The bride who took his arm and walked down the aisle. The new mother who handed him his grandson. The daughter standing by his coffin unwilling to feel that cold again.
All that pain.
Wrapped up tidy for the funeral in dress blues.
An adagio of emotion. Still, quiet, cold building to the flames and then trailing off. Dying. Cold…. A memory.
My father is a memory.