Death is weird.
Right now, I should be writing a foreword for Nelson W. Pyles’ upcoming short story collection. I should be catching up on my slush pile for LampLight Magazine, a task I’ve ignored over the past week. I should be writing short stories for two anthologies, one on-spec, one an invite. I should be watching movies, or reading books, or pitching to agents. (Or, hell, spending time with my family, say-hey-and-by-the-way.)
I should be doing all these things–and I will, eventually–but, right now, I’m sitting here, logged on to my various social media, and all the noise is drowned out by the simple discovery that a friend I’d known almost twenty years ago, and had only recently begun to reconnect to via the marvel that is the aforementioned social media, had passed after a long battle with cancer. She was my age, in her early-thirties.
Death is weird. Death is quiet.
Last week, my wife and I lost our pet Fuzz, a Chow-Chow/German Shepherd mix. We’d had him for fifteen years and, since his death, we find ourselves discovering all the little ways he’d been a part of our lives, right down to how often we vacuumed the goddamn living room floor. We stumble over these little noxious discoveries, like the opening joke on the Dick Van Dyke Show. But that’s not even the worst thing.
The worst thing is the quiet. It’s the trigger that makes you remember, oh yeah, I lost someone close to me. Someone who, by and large, defined how I went about my day. Someone who contributed to my life and, I hope, I contributed to theirs.
It gets to my wife and I at night; we’d never noticed how often our dog snored, or stretched his limbs and dragged his nails across the carpet, or jangled his collar, until those sounds were missing.
Tonight, a thousand miles away, the husband of my high school friend is dealing with his own silence.
And it isn’t that silence is bad, or this silence is bad, but that it…
…Ah hell, I said it better on Facebook (I do well with brevity, another thing that makes a blog cumbersome at times):
Silence is the trigger, the loss is the bullet, and it burrows right into your head, your heart (and that will be the only emo-tinged line you get from me, thanks).
It’s the silence that makes death weird. You find yourself sitting there, unplugged, because you can’t figure out how to get around it. Silence is both the doorway and the wall.
Last week, I completed an essay on the Stephen King novel Insomnia, which may or may not be published at some point at the end of this year/beginning of 2016, and, in it, I detailed the death of my maternal grandmother, which was my first real experience with death. But that death wasn’t quiet, at least to my mind; I can tell you what songs were on heavy rotation in the fall of 1996, when all that went down (Tom Petty, Counting Crows, Sheryl Crow, among others).
I’ve been ridiculously lucky up until now concerning death, given how often I write and think about it (I’m, ah, a little morbid), but this is the first thing that occurs to me.
Death is quiet. And it is weird because it is quiet. It is weird how it completely unhinges you. Aside from the mourning. Aside from the dull but physical ache that grips you like the flexing fingers of a giant’s hand right in your chest. Death is weird because it kind of…stops you. You know you will go on; you will form new routines, and patch over the hole that the death has put into you, and begin the long process of acceptance but, at that quiet moment, you cannot for the life of you see that as anything but some dim future of which you cannot realistically see yourself in. This person, or this pet, was always here. They should always be here. So how are they not? It’s inconceivable.
It’s the quiet that puts these thoughts and questions into us.
I usually listen to music when working–reading slush, writing forewords, writing stories and pitches. But, tonight, there’s only silence.
Silence in my household. Silence in the home my friend had made with her husband and child during the time she was here. Silence to feel the edges of the hole, as raw as the edges in the sod after a spade cuts into it.
These holes will someday be filled but right now, in the silence, you honestly cannot conceive of how, and that’s okay.
The noise will return and with it, the rest. But not right now.
Right now, in the silence, we listen.