This is my latest piece for the Odyssey. The full text is below, but I would love it if you read and shared it via the Odyssey website!
In the wake of all the negativity and sadness due to recent devastating events, I wanted to share something different.
This is a poem in remembrance of my grampy, who passed away about seven years ago. Losing a family member is always hard; losing someone who meant this much to you makes it doubly painful. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen his face, and I’ve done a lot of changing and growing up since then. But one thing that hasn’t, and will never, change, is how much I love him. It’s a poem for him, but it’s also for anyone who has ever experienced such hurt and brokenness. It’s about loss, laughter, and most importantly, love.
I hope you enjoy it ❤
The average human heart beats about 115,200 times per day.
You can’t answer me, but did you know that?
But then you weren’t just average. Maybe that’s what happened.
Maybe your heart got too tired of beating not only for you, but also for everyone else you kept alive simply by being who you were.
It’s almost been seven years now, and instead of serenading my sadness with a cliche about how it still feels like it was yesterday
I’ll instead sit on my knees like I hadn’t done in years
Until appealing to a higher power was all I could do; asking someone to take care of me while I learned that I was strong enough to do it myself
And whisper that every time I see a cardinal outside, I take it to be you coming to visit me to remind me that you’ve never really left my side
It’s a bright splash of red against the ubiquitous grey that comes with the monotony of regret. A little flare of hope in my chest.
My math skills are poor, but you haven’t seen me for roughly a third of my life.
I got contacts, but I didn’t grow any taller.
Technically I’m old enough to buy my own lottery tickets now, but it’s not really the same as the happiness on your face when you handed them out to your eagerly clamoring grandchildren.
I still remember when you told me I looked so grown up in this fuzzy purple sweater I wore even though it itched, and you called me Emily Anastasia
I go by Emma now, and when people see my face and hear me talk, they guess I’m older than I really am
It’s probably because I’ve looked death in the eyes and told him I wouldn’t dance with him; not today.
I prefer to imagine that instead of being swept up by a dark cloak and bony fingers
An angel came to greet you, took you gently by the hand, and brought you up to where you always belonged.
Because even when I was too young to really contemplate the idea of waking up with the stars glittering inches from your peaceable face
Rather than shining up in the sky a seeming amount of miles away that could only be quantified with a made up number
I sensed that you were not made or meant for this earth.
Seven years ago you left it, but the memory of that day is etched into my heart like the lines of a record.
Except unlike a record, there is no music. No sound. Just a phone. This is how it went.
I hold the phone loosely in my hands. It’s cold.
I’d like to tell you this, or anything, really, but I can’t.
Because I’m simultaneously too early and too late; too early to realize the gravity of losing you and too late to say that one last goodbye.
The phone yells silently at me, but I can’t hear it.
I’m deadened to the nonexistent noise by a cacophony of should’ve would’ve could’ves, of questions without answers, and ends without beginnings.
I would take all this numbness and multiply it a thousand times over
I would take all this pain and experience it a million times again
I would take this ridiculous juxtaposition of feeling nothing and feeling everything forever if it just meant you weren’t gone.
Because now there will be no more paintbrushes dipped in bright robin’s egg blue to pick up, no wedding rings lost amidst years and years of boxes and memories to find, and no hearing your voice say my name. Which is still Emily Anastasia, no matter what I say.
There will be no learning how to write letters on your archaic black typewriter, no sipping chocolate milk and watching it wend its way up the twisty turns of a silly straw, and no laughing as we pretend to shake like the quivering mass of cranberry sauce you loved to make every Thanksgiving. Which is definitely a disgusting invention, but we did it anyways.
There will be no helping you cook seemingly endless amounts of bacon for my cousins and I after we’d spent the night, no replying that of course I trusted you as you drive me to the last family brunch you got to spend with us, and no holding your warm, weathered hand in mine as you sleep peacefully in the armchair next to me. Which made me so aware of how little my hands were, and how many stories there were in the creases of your skin.
None of that anymore.
Now there is just a purple sweater that doesn’t fit, photographs of you from when you were younger and life hadn’t painted your hair white yet, and the tattoo I got for you.
Now there is just the emptiness of the phone, the stillness of your heart, and sometimes, if I’m very lucky, the faint echo of the last time I made you laugh.”