Here’s the thing: there’s a smudge.
There’s a smudge on the floor where my father died. The smudge is him, generic or what’s left of him. What was left of him, abortion after the coroner took his remains away. The circumstances of his death – or rather, the circumstances of the recovery of his body – were such that he left a smudge. More than a smudge, actually, but the room has been purged to the extent that such purging is possible of the evidence of his death and so there is just this: the smudge.
I can talk about this, now, without getting upset, because the monster that is – that was – the fear and anxiety surrounding his death has been tamed. Or is becoming tame. Sort of. I am, simply, getting used to it, the fact that he died, the fact that he died alone, the fact that he remained alone for some days before a concerned neighbor alerted the police and they cut into his home (this is the stuff of CSI – he could not be removed through the doorways and down the narrow hallways of his Fortress of Solitude, and this, this part of the story, is still something that I have trouble talking about, thinking about) and they removed what had become of his body and all this before I knew, before I knew that I had lost him, that he was gone.
I’m getting used to it, the idea, the fact. I am getting used to it because, through this long and arduous process of sorting through his death and his life (and this, this sorting, is another story still) I have recovered, somewhat, from the shock (how can I have any illusions about his death, how can I still be shocked by it, when I must step, daily, around his smudge? When I must admonish myself, regularly, mind the smudge? The smudge is there; it confronts me.) I am coming to terms with his death. Slowly, but surely, I am coming to terms. Because through this, this process, this investigation (this forensic research, this archaeological study, this semiological analysis, this soul searching) of his last days and of his life, I’ve been able to tame the monster that was my fear that his was a bad death. It was not, inasmuch as any death can be said not to be bad. I know, now – I have come to know, to be certain to the very bottom of my soul – that he died gently. What that means, exactly, is another story for another day, but that I know it, am certain of it, matters now and it matters much. He died gently.
That he left a smudge doesn’t matter. The smudge has nothing to do with the manner of his death. The smudge is the residue, and it is only the residue of his body, and it is only there because of his after-death. Not his life, not his death. His after-death, when he was already gone, when he was – I imagine, I hope, I know – preoccupied by the work (whatever that looks like when one is spirit, shadow, essence) of ensuring that I would make this journey whole and strong and that I would come out more whole, and more strong.
He did – has done, is doing – that work well, as he guides me through this, and I am more whole and more strong. And so the smudge? Is just a smudge.
I step around it.