The Long Goodbye


There’s been a death in my immediate family.   

The ultimate omega to its alpha happened within the last few hours.  While  not entirely expected,  it didn’t completely surprise me, either.  

I didn’t want it, but I needed it.

I didn’t know that initially.  I do now.

Death comes in many forms.   There’s the end of one’s corporeal life, of course, but more often than not, it’s also representative of the end of something; a relationship, a habit, a mindset.   Stuff we can’t put in a casket and bury.  Well, we could, but that would be a hell of an expense to incur.   I’d do it if I thought the symbolic representation would help, but it wouldn’t.


Well, because I just spent the past two months finally growing up and when you’ve attained that sacred status of adulthood, metaphors just don’t cut it any more.   

Or so I thought.

For a great portion of my life, I loved a man from a far.  No matter what happened in my life, through my successes and through my failures, I loved him.  I saw his face when I met and fell for other men.  I heard his words, when I was told “I love you”.   I saw his face when I should have seen the beauty that life offered.  But I didn’t.  I allowed what I thought I felt for him to color everything.  But sadly, heartache only represents half the spectrum.  I missed out on so much.

In addition, I let opportunity after opportunity slip through my fingers like so much sand.  Therefore, it’s quite fitting then to come to the conclusion that I’ve spent past 38 years with my head completely lodged in the stuff.

I often claimed I had first hand knowledge of a great love when in reality, I was in a state of abject denial.   

So, this morning I answered the phone and in doing so, I pulled my head out of  a billion gritty granuals and looked around me, as if for the very first time.  I saw my reality and it wasn’t pretty.    I realized that  I lived, loved, cried, and remembered a million things and somehow managed to compress those things with a brilliant overview of the past 38 years in one very brief eight minute phone call.     What took years to create, ended in eight minutes.

Eight minutes.  That’s all.  It’s said that God created the world in less time.

But in those scant eight minutes, I lived a lifetime.   My life and times flashed before my eyes.  It was like I was sitting in an arena theater, watching a video of 3-D dioramas, all representing these pertinent times in my life.  It was shown above my head at different locations on the ceiling.  Extremely fleeting glimpses they were, but lasting long enough for me to recognize each one.

I hung up the phone and walked away from that conversation not wringing my hands and collapsing on the couch as I would do normally.   Instead, I was thinking, “My God, I wasted a lot of time!”       

But I forgive myself for not knowing any better. I forgive myself for not having the tools or the bandwidth really, to do anything about it at the time.  And I sit here typing, aware of my altered feelings.  I now know I’m an evolved woman.   Everything  has changed…or my perception of it has and when that happens, there’s no going back.    I would never have thought that before coming to terms with that fact.    Does this make sense to anyone else not inside my head?   

Well, it makes sense to me and it’s all so damn true.  Had I known this, had I not been so afraid to let go, I would’ve done so years ago.  But maybe the time wasn’t right back then.  Maybe for any of this to adhere,  I had to become the woman I’d carved out of life in order to become the woman who’d eventually be carved out of this “death”.

So, wait a minute.  If I put it that way…then, in some ways…hey,  I actually died this morning.   Really?  Oh, I get it now…it was me, not the relationship that had gotten so invasive and sprouted tenticles; enough to form this  noose around my neck.  It was me or rather the old Laurie who allowed the  marauding over growth.    Oh well, if that’s the case,  that woman HAD to go.  She was a liability and obviously, her gardening skills were deplorable!

 I didn’t realize that I was the one that needed to be put down.  I didn’t realize that until a good friend contacted me this morning.  She actually served as my very own personal Dr. Kevorkian for this occasion.  Because she’d been through this before, this life-becomes-death- becomes-a-second-chance kind of scenario, she helped administer the lethal cocktail of reality and it came not in a vile or a pill bottle, but rather, in this missive: 

“After the first death, there is no other,” wrote Dylan Thomas.

That doesn’t mean the ones that come after won’t break your heart, but it’s the first one that punches your soul’s passport.  He was your first love and while, he may have left a long, long time ago, your feelings for him never did.  

So, here you are.  

All I can tell you is “Welcome, fellow human, to a different country than the one you woke up to this morning”.  

The air’s different here; so is the scenery. Your knees don’t work so well; in fact, you may want to fall to them.  If this reality makes you do that, then you do that.

For a precious little while, you are allowed to be stunned into silence, or to shriek, or to talk—recounting stories of who he was, what he meant to you, and how it all came to an end. Tell those stories.   Compose them in your head, then juxtapose it to keyboard. Write about these memories. The love you kept alive is worth it.   It’s your story.   You tell it as you see fit.

Now, there will be those people who’ll try to enforce “The Rules,” to wit: Enough of This Drama Is Enough. Ignore them.  The only rule is that in mourning, there are no rules.  Besides, if you treat yourself gently and take the time you need, someday soon you’ll once again hear the faint but steady voice of your own good sense returning.    When you do, you’ll welcome it.  That will serve as an alarm that it’s time to start living again.

In the meantime, play music you love, that which reminds you of him.   Sit in the sunshine if you can find some, and if anyone offers you a hand, hold it. Let them feed the cat and water the plants, too, because they want to be useful. 

And if in a few weeks,  your good sense doesn’t kick in on its own, help it along: make breakfast.  How about a nice frittata?   It might feel strange at first, but if you pretend that making frittatas  is normal, eventually it will become normal. Soon you can squeeze some orange juice, too.   If you can do that, can squeezing out regular, normal days be far behind?

For some of us, our stay in this new country seems endless. But time passes, seasons change, and, truly, would those we grieve for want us to mope? It doesn’t matter whether they’ve died or they’ve walked out on you, being gone is being gone.   Absence is absence.   Pain doesn’t give a damn about semantics.

So, take some time to feel all you need to feel and process all that you must, but eventually, come back into the real world..the one that doesn’t familiarize itself with daily crying jags.    God knows, at our age, we’ll have to return to this land someday all too soon, but in the meantime , your car needs to be inspected, you have jury duty in late December,  the bills need paying and you still need to find a job to make all of the above possible.  

Besides, you have others that you love and others who love you that are here in the present–those who’ve never left you.

And they still need you.

And as for you, my dear, sweet friend, YOU could use a shower.

And she was right.  

I finished reading that last sentence, then inhaled deeply.  The smell of mourning and loss hit me like bricks.  It was an acrid combination of that tale-tell sign that my deodorant that had just about run it’s course, mixed with a little regret.   

I took a shower.   A nice long one…one that’ll probably make Houston water purveyors think I’ve started growing crops in here hydroponically.  

But that doesn’t matter.   I emerged an hour later, pink and wrinkled like a newborn and in some ways,  I was.   You see, I was wrong about not needing metaphors.   They’re vital.   Like my shower was vital.   I was baptized anew in a font and basin designed to cleanse.   So, two pivotal things were accomplished in my bathroom today.  I couldn’t have done either without metaphor. 

And I most assuredly, could not have done it without the restorative powers of hot water and a bar of Caress.

Oh yeah….clarity helps, too. 

It’s really all about closure, my friends.  It’s a wonderfully glorious thing to finally attain, especially in a life lived without it.




  1. Oh no . . . Is this why you have been spending time in central Texas lately?
    I’ve been wanting to call you because I suspected something out of the ordinary was going on in your life. I didn’t though because I was afraid of intruding. I hope you still have my number.


    Nah, you know about this relationship, G. We’ve talked about it. I can honestly say iIt’s over–finally–and I have closure after 38 years. I feel as though I’ve lost about 180 pounds. I made the mistake of getting to know the man who used to be the boy fell in love with way back in Jr. High. Never do that. You’ll be sorely disappointed.

    I’m home…back in Houston.

    Let’s go play soon. Still have your darts, Son.

  2. There is something remarkably liberating about the worst when it finally happens. Dread takes a back seat and now it’s the time to think about how to live with a new absence.

    It’s strange feeling, like a room missing a piece of furniture, giving back a different echo when a sound is made or the feel of a mouth with a gap where a tooth was, until this morning.

    I’m sorry to hear of your loss, but your writing has a real resonance.

    Thanks for this thoughtful piece.

    You’re welcome, Chris and thank you for your kind words. I think Art Garfunkel once warbled, “Endings come to fast and then they pass too slow.”

    I agree whole-heartedly.

    But that doesn’t make their ultimate arrival any better…or any worse. Sometimes endings are vital.

    I clung to a memory that ultimately didn’t deserve the length of time I gave it. That was childish folly committed by a woman who while adult, never completely thought or acted like one where love was concerned.

    First loves are dynamic. They’re poignant and special and will always remain that way because you have nothing to compare them to…that love was the first. Your heart is unchartered territory, that is until love serves as its first cartographer.

    I allowed my first love to dictate (to a degree) all that would diegn to follow it. In retrospect, I don’t think I missed out on any great loves. None of the men I met and became involved with were keepers, but I regret that I allowed his memory to carve out such a prominant, all encompassing place in my heart and soul.

    So, now that’s over and I have the closure I need. Liife goes on. I’m not even scrambling to fill the void left by this extracation. It’ll eventually shift and form whatever shape it needs to take. This time, it’ll do all that on it’s own and I’ll let it. It’s about time I stop forcing the issue.

    It’s said that looking for love is a fruitless venture. I know that now. It took most of my life, but I’ve finally realized it. If you look for it, you’ll never find it. Not in it’s truest sense, anyway. Forced love is the worst. Settled for love is no better. It’s better to stumble on to it than anything else.

    There’s something groovy about first recognizing when love ventures in your life. It’s that marvelous, heart-stopping surprise that overwhelms you. It’s that gut rendering moment when you breathlessly realize the search is over. Especially when you realize you weren’t even looking for it. Rather, it was looking for you.

    I wish I could bottle that feeling. It would be a panacea that could asuage all the world’s evil. I do believe it would even have the power to make Darfur seem like a vacation destination.

    Here’s to echo-laden living rooms and toothless grins, Chris.


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