Presence

The year after your death, we return to Spain

I board the plane to return home and immediately feel your presence. Heaviness rests on my heart and tears fall to my lap. The flight attendants busy themselves to avoid interacting with me.

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My mind wanders back a year ago when I came to see you, to tell you I would be away for a time. I didn’t expect you to understand or to answer. Your face frozen in late stage dementia;. but your connection to me transcending the physical space we occupied.

 

You sat in your Lazy-Boy recliner and I told you that this trip was important, something I couldn’t cancel. I was going to Spain with my sister over spring break. Not a typical spring break vacation, after tragically losing her husband it was intended to be an escape.

 

But you never knew those details; plaques and tangles prevented your comprehension of her deep grief. Your mood was somber and the walls of your room closed in. I left, thinking I may have heard you sniffle but I had a plane to catch, a schedule to keep.

 

The call came from across the ocean. I sat on the cold, marble steps of a dimly lit street. My back pressed against a thick wooden door to the cathedral. How ironic.


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The voice on the other end of the line saying “She’s slipping away. Hospice has been called. Can you get back quickly?” But we couldn’t and I heard myself utter, “I can accept what happens.”

 

But could I? How selfish was it for me to be away? Did you always intend for me to leave, to protect me from your final exit?

 

Instead you waited for all of us to get back to you. I sat holding your hand, simmering in the guilt of having left in the first place. Other than the dog at the foot of your bed I was alone with you and  I told you that it was okay to let go.

 

You found a moment of final and pure lucidity and you turned to face me. You nodded and then winked in undiminished understanding. Your long and painful journey through this disease, ending.

 

My sister and I return to Spain one year later and I feel your spirit. I think that you’re finally and fully letting go. That it was important for you to be part of this reprise, but now it’s more important for you to be totally free.