©2013 by Jack A. Urquhart, 680 words
Dear Dillon, Dear Son,
It is one month today since you left us, since you died in a Seattle hospital with your mother and I standing at your bedside. Oh Dill, I wish I could express how much your absence still feels unreal—even though your ashes are in the next room as I write this. Even though I keep close the few mementos you left: your I.D. card carried in my wallet; your baseball cap worn when I work in the garden; your photos on my cell phone and computer. Even the photos taken in your hospital room on that final dreadful day.
Perhaps this reliance on keepsakes seems strange. But so is grief—all the feelings that impel one, or at least this one—to keep revisiting the past. As if that could ever mitigate the loss.
And yet, I keep trying.
The thing is, Dill, I linger over these tokens—yes, even the photos taken as you lay dying—not out of morbid obsession, not because I’m afraid I’ll forget your face; but because I want to re-live your beauty. It’s right there, you know—even in those deathbed shots. That is because it looks like you’ve just fallen asleep! I swear, I can see your childhood-self shining through in that hospital bed. The little boy (who was often such a pill) is sleeping there in the grown man! I see his gorgeous eyes, so perfectly almond-shaped and long-lashed in slumber. I see little Dill’s pursed and budding lips, his hair sweeping back in dark moist strands. And your beautiful hands—an artist’s hands—that are so like your sister’s, your Mom’s.
So I look again and again because I don’t want to believe that I’ll never see you again—the child or the man. Not in life, anyway. I don’t want to accept that. Not yet. And I look because that’s all I’ve been able to do.
Today, I found the courage to listen.
Today I played it again—your last voicemail, saved on my cell phone.
The date stamp is July 5, 2013, 9:11 a.m. You had only 28 days to live. I wonder if you sensed as much—if you’d guessed that time might be running out. Along with everything else, I wonder if there wasn’t some glimmer of foreknowledge in the slow repetitive gravity of your speech patterns, in each heavy, disconsolate pause.
Oh Dill! You can’t know how sorry I am to have missed that call.
Here is what you said:
“Hey Dad, it’s me. Um—Just calling to let you know—um—I made it out of the hospital. I’m at the—um—Solutions Center. Um—I’m trying to find some solutions now and, um—just trying to get in, back involved with family. I just really miss, I really miss a lot, a lot of the times that, that, that we’ve had together; that, that you and I have had together, but—um—well, anyway. I’ll call. I’ll call you back later today. All right—Love you Dad. Bye.”
Dillon, I don’t remember if we talked after that day. Surely we must have. But I can’t be certain. I can’t say for sure that that recording wasn’t your last goodbye. And I can’t remember if I had the chance afterward to say something to make you feel more connected. Less lonely. Something—anything—powerful enough to silence even briefly the voices in your head; some few words that would help you to feel less afraid, more secure of your place in our family. In this world. Something beyond the cliché—so that you would know that you belonged.
Dear God, I hope I did. I hope I gave you (at least!) a last blessing. Something as precious as the one you telephoned to me on that July morning eight weeks ago. Thank you for that.
But just in case I forgot to say so back then, and against the possibility that you might still be listening, I offer this one:
Love you, Dill. Always. Forever.