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144 pages, Hardcover
First published January 1, 2009
"There is a language to the dying. It creeps like a shadow alongside the passing years and the taste of it hides in the corners of our mouths. It finds us whether we are sick or healthy. It is a secret hushed thing that lives in the whisper of the nurses’ skirts as they rustle up ad down our stairs…”
“My eyes adjust to the dark and I make patterns out of the shadows and shapes of the plastered ceiling. I think it’s human nature, isn't it? To look for patterns or meaning in things.”
“…its red eyes glow angrily and through the glass I can see hot steam charge from its flared nostrils as it paws the ground. I think perhaps it is blacker than the night, its mane shining as it is tossed this way and that. I am not sure whether it is beautiful or ugly, but I know that it’s wonderful.”
“You look so sick. You’ve given up. You haven't drunk anything. I think this should surely be enough to make death take over. I am wrong of course. You have so much more dying to do yet. You have to become so much less before you go.”
"Even when by rights it has no place left to be, love is hard to kill. Like life. And sometimes, like life, it takes you completely by surprise."I have to mention the ending. There’s a part of me that’s almost embarrassed to admit this, but seriously, I didn't get it. Was a part of it only a figment of her imagination? I’m confused. . .
There is a language to dying. It creeps like a shadow alongside the passing years and the taste of it hides in the corners of our mouths. It finds us whether we are sick or healthy. It is a secret hushed thing that lives in the whisper of the nurses’ skirts as they rustle up and down our stairs. They’ve taught me to face the language one syllable at a time, slowly creating an unwilling meaning.
Most things in life change gradually. Events creep up on you from behind just like the language. You barely notice the beginnings; it’s only when things go terribly wrong that we wipe the sleep from our eyes and wail miserably, ‘How the hell did that happen?’
The boys share a smile over something Penny has said and I can almost see their childish faces shimmering under the worn skin they have now. Only just, but the traces are still there. That makes me sadder than if they had been gone forever and I go to the sink and slowly wash up, hiding in the task.
There is no laughter now, no tall tales, just a man who can’t deal with losing his father. Or maybe can’t deal with the process of losing his father. I wish he could get a glimpse of other people and see that they feel and think, just like he does. Maybe then he’d realise that none of us can deal with it. We just have to suck it up and get on with it.
Growing up is about realising that the cracks in the pavement are nothing to worry about. It’s the cracks inside that count.
This is just the end. It isn’t the everything of you. And it’s the everything we’ll remember when the memory of this fades. I remember me and Penny in the bath splashing bubbles, you smiling behind the camera. Or maybe I just remember the yellowy seventies photograph, but either way those things are the everything. All moments that have arrived here.
. . . I stroke your hair and kiss your dry, rotten mouth. “I can see you in there, Dad,” I whisper. “Don’t worry. I can always see you.” (17)Maybe this statement expresses the essence of the experience of being a solo witness to the slow, agonizing death of somebody you love. It’s something you know in your heart and cannot share with anybody but the person who is dying. Not siblings. Not doctors and other caretakers. When you have been the primary friend (and that can be in many different roles—spouse, child, parent, etc.), seeing this person to their end, the journey becomes your never-to-be-spoken, unshareable honor and pain.
"There is a language to dying. It creeps like a shadow alongside the passing years and the taste of it hides in the corners of our mouths. It finds us whether we are sick or healthy."
"My anger fights with my grief and threatens to strangle me."
"I rock forward, keening, trying to cry it all out. Trying to cry you out. Trying to cry away this waiting for you to rot into death. My throat tightens. The world glitters in the corners and my own breath threatens to choke me."