It was a cold winter night, nearing the end of what feels like the longest month of the year, February. Even though more daylight seemingly increases day by day, the darkness was still most of what I saw around my working hours. The street light adjacent to my front door was probably the closest thing I saw to sunshine. Walking under it cast a shadow that followed me in either direction but that evening would be the last time that it came home with me.
On that night, our tiny house was silent except for the grief that echoed between our plastered walls. When I got in, she was taking a bath. Reminiscing on what could have been but we knew what was coming. It wasn’t what we hoped for.
The doctor called us with the latest results. A pulse was lost, ticking dissipated, and now we awaited their DOA. The doctor told us what to expect and gave some options to induce. She chose the natural route. No drugs. Bad news is hard enough to receive, let alone while hopped up on meds.
The doctor forewarned how painful it might be. That made her nervous yet she still wished to proceed without any help. She soaked in the tub like a duck in water. Paddling under the bubbles, working hard to keep it together, but all I saw was her calm demeanor and lamenting eyes. She was beautiful amidst tragedy, exuding so much strength. Stronger than I had seen her before. More than she ever knew.
After leaving the bathroom, she sat with me at the bedside. Those maternity books on the night table were irrelevant all of a sudden. Not how I remembered them the night before. All the joy and hopefulness from yesterday was gone, just like that. She cried while I held her in my arms, holding back my own tears to make her feel safe. That’s the best I could do. It hurt so much.
Still, she was all the light I needed that day. More luminous than the street pole outside. In the darkness that engulfed us she cast a beacon that guided me to what mattered most. She was the lighthouse that guarded our tiny house. We would always have each other.
We carried on like any other night. Doing our best to feel normal. I think we had soup. Our sorrows sunk into our bowls. We downed mouthfuls of salt with our spoonfuls. That was our reality—accepting the hard truth. Some things cannot be changed and that’s just how it goes sometimes.
Even still, there was something in the air that wasn’t there last night. It only arrived after the doctor called. Maybe it followed me home. It was an energy that attached itself to the space around us. Nestling between the walls of our modest bungalow. Something joined us for what was coming. We could feel their presence sitting among us. Like a silent dinner guest at the table.
She thought it was her Avó who passed on that month. It was in Palliative Care that she told her of the news, in confidence, before crossing over. Now, as quickly as things had changed, it was comforting to think that Avó was still looking out for her on the other side. Whatever it was, we weren’t alone that evening. We went to sleep with them in our company.
That night was quiet until 3am. She tossed and turned by my side while I took no issue sleeping, a secret talent of mine. I can’t remember what I dreamt about but I was suddenly awakened from my deep state when the smoke detector spasmodically sounded off. It was ominous. The dog and I hopped out of bed to find the danger but there was nothing. Prior to that happening, there was no indication that the smoke detector was faulty. It was hardwired with a battery backup. A false alarm never happened like that.
When I chalked it up as a weird glitch, I went back to bed. Again, I had no trouble falling asleep but this time as my eyes closed, it sounded off as if it caught me in the act. It was a signal. The dog was on high alert. Ambience in the bedroom thickened like a dense gloom. It felt like whatever that was was trying to warn us. Then she uttered the words, “I think it’s coming”.
The dog and I waited outside the bathroom, fanning the smoke under the ceiling. There was no danger but the detector knew as much as we did. Without a doubt the fire was in her womb when it came to pass. That’s when it happened. It painlessly fell in the bowl like lamenting into our soup. That specimen sank to the bottom. It never had a chance to drift. Nothing was more ingenuous. Salt of the earth. That was our baby.
Part of us died with them. It felt grotesque to collect the sample to send for testing. Our flesh wrapped in plastic like some forensic evidence. We didn’t get much sleep beyond that. Apart from another sound off, the detector stopped acting strange after it passed. The silence in the house was filled with despair. Whatever was in our company still hung around. We could feel their shadow watching us. Standing at guard. There was something about that night.
The morning after was another working day. I got ready, doing my best to feel normal, while a piece of myself was still in bed. It was hard for me, for us. The devastation of losing a piece of ourselves and all hope in that moment was the lowest we ever felt. I couldn’t bear leaving her. She was distraught. She lay there until I returned from work. That day was so difficult.
It wasn’t until I returned home when I realized that something was missing outside my front door. My shadow. Oddly enough, the street light burned out and died just the same. For all I know, it could have happened at the same time. I remember looking up at the darkness. I remember thinking that is more than just a coincidence. Perhaps a message. As a tear fell down my cheek I thanked a higher power for such godly attention.
Grieving looks different for everyone. I tend to bury my sadness with distractions. At the very least, my curiosity seeks meaning in the most trivial of things. That helps me to cope. Even so, the pain of that night still stays with me.
Finding the silver lining in any circumstance is always best advised, and as painful as that was, I can’t help but think about the strange events of that night. Something was there for her, for us. Something came to collect an angel. We were not alone. I can still feel them with us from time to time. That night will forever be a part of us.