Ten thousand three hundred and twenty miles:
the distance between us when you breathed your last, gasping breath,
when the pain, that had wracked your poor body for months, eased.
Three months to be specific.
That’s all the warning God gave us.
Three measly damn months,
and I was gone for every single one of them.
I tell myself it was a blessing that you didn’t suffer longer,
that I didn’t have to see you wasting away.
My heart doesn’t feel like listening to such stupidity, even if it’s true.
Thirty-two hours of flying, and a two-hour car ride,
and I stand in our church, where I sat beside you on Sundays,
holding your hand as you tried to make me sit still.
But I’m frozen now, looking at the too thin stranger lying in your coffin.
Did they bring the wrong body?
You don’t look like that,
so gaunt you’re barely skin and bones.
Maybe it’s because you always exuded a white hot force of life,
you were booming laughs and fierce love.
You drew people to you like a magnetic pull.
You were the warmth that kept the cold world at bay,
the perfect mixture of strength and tenderness,
just like a dad is supposed to be.
And you were always so big that I had to stand on tippy toes to hug you.
This shriveled, small body isn’t, can’t be you.
No! It’s some cruel joke someone has played!
Sixty years is just too young.
Doesn’t God know I still needed you?
I sit between my grandmother,
hunched over at the unnaturalness of losing her child,
and my sister, who got three months more of your hugs than I did,
but whose eyes are broken from watching you wither.
Maybe my eyes are just as cracked.
My mind won’t work, so all I know is that my chest feels empty and heavy all at once,
and sharp, stinging tears are shaking from my eyes until they burn.
The air, as thick as concrete, makes me feel like I’m drowning for lack of breath.
I hear the hymns, the preacher’s voice, but the words don’t make sense.
The only things anchoring me are the two hands clinging to mine on either side,
clenched so tight, as though afraid we’ll all just slip away. Just like you.