August 20, 2009

Here’s the thing: there’s a smudge.

There’s a smudge on the floor where my father died. The smudge is him, or what’s left of him. What was left of him, 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.

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    Mom101 August 20, 2009 at 12:45 am

    Sometimes the universe sends us the signs we need when we need them.

    Am wishing you peace.
    .-= Mom101´s last blog ..All the love inside you =-.

    Alicia August 20, 2009 at 1:38 am

    This is beautiful. You are strong.
    .-= Alicia´s last blog ..strange things are afoot at the circle k =-.

    Emma August 20, 2009 at 8:50 am

    SO tough. Thinking of you.
    .-= Emma´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday: Sharing =-.

    Assertagirl August 20, 2009 at 9:05 am

    How bittersweet, this reminder that your dad is still there, in some mysterious form, looking out for you.

    Wish I could give you a hug.

    Bokker August 20, 2009 at 9:06 am

    So sad for you. Wishing you strength.

    I tortured myself imagining what my younger sister’s last moments were like when she drowned. And maybe they were awful; maybe they were peaceful. But I’ve come to an acceptance that these were just mere moments in a whole, precious life, and an acceptance that- well- it has happened, and there is nothing I can do about that. It’s like the reverse of “que sera sera”: what has passed, has passed. This is the smudge that those left behind learn to live with eventually.
    .-= Bokker´s last blog ..Shallow? Moi? =-.

    Loural August 20, 2009 at 10:11 am

    My heart goes out to you. Stay strong.

    Issa August 20, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Catherine, I just want to say that I’ve been thinking about you. I wish I had better words, but I don’t. Tons of hugs your way though.
    .-= Issa´s last blog ..Guess what? =-.

    georgie August 20, 2009 at 11:20 am

    I wish i knew what to say…it seems there are no words in times like this
    .-= georgie´s last blog ..Todays Post brought to you by ‘Keywords’ =-.

    lindsayc August 20, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Your words move me to tears. Peace to you and your family.

    K-Line August 20, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    I’ve been thinking of you and your family Catherine. I can’t imagine how terrible and stressful all of this is. I’m so sorry for you all. But it seems like you have a clear, philosophical way of approaching it (in some moments I’m sure it’s less philosophical than others, but certainly your writing shows the clarity you are developing on the topic). I’m wishing you well.

    Susannah August 20, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    That was some of the finest writing I have seen. Small consolation, or none at all really, in the face of losing your father. But that smudge–wow.

    I wish you further courage, strength and grace.
    .-= Susannah´s last blog ..Speaking of Beetles =-.

    Valerie August 20, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    This entry is just so beautifully written, so moving. It really touched me. I wish you peace.

    Catootes August 20, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    Through your words, others heal.

    I wish I was able to write so eloquently about the loss of my parents, two years apart.

    The grief fades, superceded by memories of love, this much I can offer.

    Wishing you peace and love.
    .-= Catootes´s last blog ..Dude =-.

    Bon August 20, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    coming face to face with the smudge, daily, is a strange kind of thing. i love what Bokker said…that ultimately it teaches that what is past, is past. and that one’s end is what it is. and that the love endures, no matter.
    .-= Bon´s last blog ..old dogs =-.

    cagey August 20, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    Catherine, I have not talked about this very much to anyone. Except my husband and a few others. In 2002, I had a cousin I was close to die living in the DC area and he was not found for nearly a month (he was the type to type to travel out of the country without telling us.)

    I am so deeply, honestly sorry for your family having to go through this. It is such a very different type of grief because of the surreal, physical aspects associated with it.

    Again, you and your family have been in my thoughts lately.
    .-= cagey´s last blog ..What Would Bindi Do? =-.

    Lara August 20, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    You are very special, your father’s spirit is very special, and that smudge, in all its doesn’t-matter-ness, is special in a way too.

    I am glad to see your strength coming through. It eases my worry for you, just the littlest of bits.
    .-= Lara´s last blog ..Sounds Like Science Fiction, But It’s Not =-.

    divacowgirl August 21, 2009 at 12:22 am

    I wish I had amazing things to say to help, but having lost my mom a year ago I am only aware of all the things not to say. And I know that words don’t always help, but I am really sorry that you are going through this. It’s a horrible journey, but one we survive as a tribute to those we’ve lost.
    .-= divacowgirl´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday =-.

    flutter August 21, 2009 at 1:14 am

    Oh, Catherine…

    Elaine August 21, 2009 at 8:49 am

    I wish you and your family peace. I’m so sorry about your dad.

    William August 21, 2009 at 10:47 am

    I am sorry for you loss. It just sucks.
    .-= William ´s last blog ..Stranger Celebrity =-.

    MOAM August 21, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Chiming in with Susannah here — this post is so well written, it’s sitting in the pit of my stomach.
    .-= MOAM´s last blog ..Three things + 1 admission of guilt =-.

    Jane August 21, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    I wish we could meet for a drink…… my father passed away a year ago. I had to fly to Palm Springs, identify him, and clean his place, his smudge was in his bed. I wonder everyday what he was doing those last minutes, what was he thinking…..
    A sight, a smell and a feeling, that stays with you….

    Kathleen August 21, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    I wish that you weren’t going through this, this horrible situation of your father and now, the smudge. You are a very strong woman.

    Try and remain centered.
    Try and remain calm.
    Try and remain peaceful.
    Try and remain humorous.

    When all the above fail, write and get drunk!

    We, your collective we, are all with you.

    .-= Kathleen´s last blog ..kathleenblastpr: Running to @EarthFare to get ingredients for Panzenella Salad – recipe by Michael Chiarello. Croutons, tomatoes from the garden + basil! =-.

    habanerogal August 21, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    Beautiful and poignant writing as you deal with this new aspect to being a child of a deceased parent. Thinking of you now and always.
    .-= habanerogal´s last blog ..Oral Fixation slapdown =-.

    Kate @ UpsideBackwards August 21, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    Hugs to you and yours. I have no words. I am glad that you do, and others do for you. I’m sorry.
    .-= Kate @ UpsideBackwards´s last blog ..Deja vu =-.

    Michelle Pixie August 21, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    You are amazing. Very Beautiful!
    .-= Michelle Pixie´s last blog ..Do I Know My Husband…Easy Peasy =-.

    Scott August 21, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    When I read your words “the residue of his body” I was reminded of a great line I heard somewhere: that the body is really just a delivery system for the soul. I like that. I’m not a religious person *at all*, but I believe in the soul, that I have one, and I like the notion that, as much as I’m attached to the physical nature of reality, the body really doesn’t matter. It’s transient…like your smudge. The soul never fades away.
    .-= Scott´s last blog ..Kiss Tickets! =-.

    Loralee August 22, 2009 at 12:41 am


    This post reaches deep into my heart.

    I am so very sorry for your loss. I’m torn up for you, sweet friend.

    I have been traveling and barely online and I am so very late telling you how sorry I am for your family.

    You are never old enough to lose a parent. Never.

    I love you.
    .-= Loralee´s last blog ..The only thing that would have made attending a luncheon with a senior advisor to the president to hear my views on health care reform cooler is if it had actually been held at The White House. (I would have totally pinched some hand lotion from Obama’s bathroom. I bet he uses the good stuff.) =-.

    Melissa Wardy August 22, 2009 at 12:48 am

    Catherine -
    I’m sure having your husband and babies to hold tonight is giving your heart some much needed mending. There is nothing more sweet than holding your babies after being apart. Was thinking of you today. Hope you are strengthening and healing with each day. Be well.

    Maggie May August 22, 2009 at 2:06 am

    This is so hard to read; I can only imagine the shock and pain of going through it. I know how loss is like not being able to breathe.
    .-= Maggie May´s last blog ..the whole wide world =-.

    the new girl August 22, 2009 at 6:17 am

    I am without words, C. Holding a place for you in my heart.
    .-= the new girl´s last blog ..Fun Fact Friday: ‘A Not-Perfect-But-Still-Pretty-Solid-Ten’ Edition. =-.

    liz August 22, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Thinking of you and your family.
    .-= liz´s last blog ..The Pours, The Pours! =-.

    chancesmom August 22, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    Keeping you in thoughts and prayers.


    Dani August 22, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss. You are and have been in my thoughts.
    .-= Dani´s last blog ..Got Junk? I’ve Got a Lawn =-.

    Dizzy August 28, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    I’m terribly sorry for your loss.

    Shannon August 28, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    I wish I knew what to say. You are courageous. When my father died last year – there were some similarities. I did not go. It was my sister and her husband who cleaned and sorted and faced the demons. You are strong. I am sorry you had to be so strong. My thoughts are with you.

    Iheartfashion September 2, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    You write beautifully about what is such a terrible tangle of feelings. I’m so sorry for your loss.

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