More Poetry: Grandfather’s Axes

I was just talking with a friend about watching our elders grow old.

My grandfather died of mesothelioma in a hospital bed many years ago now. I flew to Phoenix from Seattle to see him but had to return home on what turned out to be the day before he died, Thanksgiving. When I leaned in to hug that once large man with no middle name, I knew it would be the last time. He whispered to me, “I’m sorry.” He was sorry he did not know how to die with more grace. He was sorry that his final contribution to all our lives was grief.

I wish that we knew how to die. I wish we knew how to honor the departures of our loved ones. If I’d been older, maybe I could’ve said something as salve, though I guess I still don’t know what that may have been. “Happy travels.” “Your death cannot erase the letters you sent me, the skeleton of the rabbit inside the skeleton of the snake you showed me that summer, or the time you forgot to ask my parents if I could go to the David Bowie concert before you dropped me off at the gate.” “Your life belonged to you, and your death does, too. Dive in, my friend. Don’t look back.”

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