BRING OUT YOUR DEAD

It had the earmarkings of a truly life-changing week.  And it did change me… but in ways I didn’t anticipate.

I was on retreat in Kansas City, trying to make sense of a life which had become incomprehensible.  The grounds were beautiful and I walked them everyday, sharing my despair with the trees.   They must have heard my pleas because not long after, my walk was accompanied by an enormous bird.  She had an eight-foot wing span and kept pace with me, always twenty yards ahead. 

It never occured to me to wonder why she was out of her normal habitat, or if she considered me prey.  Instead I followed her, listening to the heavy whoosh of her wings as she lighted from branch to branch, hoping that she would reveal her secrets.

She did, of course, a few days later when I realized that my marriage had died.    Why hadn’t I seen the vultures circling earlier?  I knew that it had to be buried, but the pain of this knowledge was so profound that it paralyzed me. 

And there was more to come.  I left the retreat the next day and rode to the airport like a zombie.  The highway was just a blur; the voices on the radio, a jumble of noise.   I paid no attention and just stared out the window, watching the fine Missouri homes pass by in streaks of color.

“… he died in a helicopter crash at Alpine Valley.”

The location roused some recognition in me, and I turned up the volume.  Stevie Ray Vaughan was dead on a hillside in Wisconsin.

It felt like a knife in my heart.

I couldn’t stop weeping.  And couldn’t understand why I was weeping for a man I had never met.  The dj’s were hushed, reverent as they recapped his life and played songs from his repertoire, but I didn’t hear them.  I only mourned the loss of, what felt like, a brother.

There was no respite when I returned to Chicago.  I walked into my apartment and dialed the phone.  I had to speak with Kathleen.

There was no answer.  Oh, why was I gallivanting around the country trying to find myself when she was in such frail health?  She had been good friend for ten years, but all I could recall in that moment were her lips stained with morphine.

“When I go, I’d like it to be of heroin overdose.” 

She couldn’t have meant it, so many years ago, laughing with the recollections of youth.  But her words were prophetic, and she had died in my absence, after a long battle with cancer.

What more would my winged messenger bring?  At the wake, I saw more than Kathleen’s body lying in the coffin.  Domestic fantasies, idealistic visions and adolescent dreams were nestled next to her, waiting to be interred forever into the cold ground.

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2 Responses to “BRING OUT YOUR DEAD”

  1. Dino Armiros Says:

    Kim – This is sad, hurting and terrific work.

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