“If it weren’t cancer, if it weren’t fatal, if it weren’t illness, I would wish for everyone to dwell in this state — so rested, so vulnerable, so receptive, so yielding, and so ready to BE together.”
Which is what you were.
In the weeks after your death, I began to build a narrative on a falsehood you would have rejected. It was bleak, and pinched, and it went like this: goodness is finite. So when I boarded the plane to your funeral I saw what I was looking for: people all over America, fondling their profile pictures. Even as I cooed at Bess, and spotted her on every chair, I braced myself for a living cliché: a self-important businessman who would dominate both armrests and let me know that babies were distasteful, while I folded myself into a tiny package and tried to inoffensively nurse. (See how blameless I am? Impressive, right?)
But Bess and I were seated next to a kind woman. And my narrative fell apart right then. And guess what? She was your high school girlfriend and now she’s a doctor. We talked about The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, and how you two dated, and when she last saw you, and her hopes to become a mother, and another friend with cancer, and the dying children she helps.
When we landed in Cedar Rapids, I looked for you. I keep looking for you. You would be the tall guy, smiling.
Shawn was there, though, and Liz. And they’d brought a carseat.
The air in Iowa was feathered, with the light filtered through fine gauze. It is difficult, in such air, to not believe that the living are accompanied by the dead. And then there was the town: all those blocks broken up by empty lots where a footprint of a building stands but the concrete has succumbed to green, green weeds, and you see the one thing being born from the other.