Advent Adventures:The Door to December 12th, 2022- Holiday Loss
Touched By Fire
The photo above is of what has remained in place on my chalkboard painted wall above my half-bath door for five years. I wrote it as a reminder to myself that I was going to attend an additional meeting with my writing colleagues, but not the main meeting, but rather a meeting of members of the group who wanted to get really serious about our writing and tighten up the critiquing and back and forth that would conceivably come of a more focused group.
It was my suggestion that we call the group: Touched by Fire. This was in homage to a book I had read in college about how much creative art derives from those of our population that suffer mental health issues or have trouble with battling addiction. Not that many of our small group openly proclaimed belonging to either category; but the idea of madness giving that spark of creativity held a romantic part within me.
If we could only but channel a piece of it, then we too would be on our way to becoming famous writers. Hopefully, not at the expense that many had.
Regardless of the intent. This reminder was set. This reminder was useful. This reminder was observed.
I met my writing colleagues at the Melrose Starbucks. After a quick meet and greet, I went up and grabbed a libation and holiday snack for myself.
Once I got both and returned to the table that my colleagues were seated at, I sipped and nibbled.
Sipping and nibbling is serious business, and in short order I got halfway through both items. Suddenly, an incongruent cacophony burst forth from my breast pocket.
It was quite noticeable by my party. I had forgotten to turn my ringtone down. I made the gesture that I was going to ignore the call, but then I thought to myself maybe it was someone that hadn’t showed up; even though all members of the party were accounted for.
For whatever reason, I answered the phone. It was a 781-area code number. So, I thought it was fair chance it was someone in the writing group.
“Hello, Mr. Hickey”
“This is Dr. Lee from the Melrose Wakefield Emergency Department”
Now I had just left my house not twenty minutes prior, so in my quick brain rushes to understand what was going on, I ruled out the possibility that whatever Dr. Lee had to tell me, it didn’t involve my wife or children.
“You are listed as the Emergency Contact for Kevin Connolly.”
I instantly knew what would follow despite all of myself playing lightspeed games and jedi mind tricks to bargain with my mind for what my heart already knew, and my gut knew.
“Yes, I’m his emergency contact. He’s, my uncle.”
“Yes, Mr. Hickey, I’m sorry to have to tell you that your uncle was brought here earlier this evening unresponsive after a wellness check at his residence, and he passed at…”
I didn’t hear what Dr. Lee had said after “passed at…” I mean I heard it, but I didn’t allow myself to hear it, as if that would change the reality of it having occurred.
My writing colleagues were close enough to me to hear and understand what was happening. An amazing sort of surreal moment shared by people that make it their business to manufacture scenes like this very one.
This was not Fiction. It was a first draft. and there were no edits. The facts remained the facts. Long after that night.
I was touched by fire, but it wasn’t the fire I had intended. It was a slow burn, and still burns to this day.
I thanked the attending physician for the kindness of the notification.
At this point I had to divest myself of the group of writers and start making phone calls. Being an emergency contact has many responsibilities, and a few burdens. This particular burden was being accountable in knowing something that others in my family didn’t: that our beloved Uncle, Brother, Cousin, etc. had died.
Trying to recount that blur of the phone call with Dr. Lee, something about myocardial infarction, blah, blah, blah.
The burden became holding the information that no one else knew but the duty was to call others in my family and touch them with the fire I had been told was just extinguished. One of the truest moments of being alone, as you are the only one that knows something that must be shared but are not in a position to share it easily.
Every day, I walk by this wall and see that reminder: TBF 12/12/17. Now five years later on 12/12/22, I caught myself looking up and reflecting on it. That. The night. The call. The life. The death. All that followed that moment.
Why haven’t I erased it? Have I somehow believed that if I erased it, it would make it less real? Do I think somewhere within myself that if I erase it, that I erase him?
These things have crept into and out of my mind, my heart, my gut, and what five years has brought me to realize: it’s time to erase that goddamned reminder.
It was a moment in time, that bookended a lifetime. I was there and the impermanence of it has somehow become permanent, and ironically, in the cast of chalk dust no less.
Somehow in my busy life, with my busy home, and busy family, no one else has even come close to erasing it. Not even by accident.
I think that perhaps it was because I needed to be the one to erase it. Because it holds no sway over me and the significance of it to me by no means exceeds the beloved memory of one so dear that was, “suddenly” (as they say) gone.
The Smiths were right; there is a light that never goes out.
CPH for KPC
Losing a loved one during the holiday season only amplifies the shock and grief you feel from such an event. In many ways it is hard to endure the absence of that loved one as there are so many lovely memories tied to the life and love you shared during this special time of year. Although it hurts less as time goes on, it can still be hard to view things in the same way as you used to when things were different. The only thing that worked for me was to lean into all of the feelings, good and bad. Let them wash over you and embrace you and a wonderful thing happens: the loss is gradually replaced with the intensity of love forged in those memories. No one ever really leaves us without leaving a lasting imprint on our hearts and minds. Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to love those people again.
“When We Were Immortal”
There was a time when we were immortal.
Fresh, brand new.
Born into youth.
Excited for lazy pleasures and long days.
Depending on the strength of the gods surrounding us.
We could do anything and seemed robust.
Time distorted the truth,
and aided in our fall.
What once defied the setting sun,
grew less with each passing year.
Until, finally the world swallowed the moments whole.
There was a time high on the mountain,
when living seemed forever.
It was remarkable, but short lived.
Today marks the bittersweet anniversary of my maternal Uncle Kevin’s death. He is sorely missed, and I do my best to honor his memory as much as I can. I’ve added some links below to other poems and posts related to him, that I’ve written in the last few years. When I think of an Advent Calendar, I think of looking forward to something, and now in a sense, looking back. There was a lot of mystery behind Uncle Kev’s doors. He was easy to know, but at times kept his cards close to the vest. Thinking fondly of the many ways in which he enriched my life. He lived a life of patience and tact and used these talents to teach his young niece and nephew game theory, or as he called it “STRAGEDY” There is many a night when I look at an empty cribbage board and smile within the glow of the memory it brings forth. There are many gifts in life that we are lucky enough to receive, but it is entirely true, that the gift of time is the most precious. Kev gave us as much time as we needed and wanted.
If you liked this post…perhaps these might appeal to you as well:
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Check out a recent post here: Advent Adventures: The Door to December Eleventh, 2022 – ProCrasstheNation
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