I had a beautiful scarf that I bought myself when I was out shopping with my precious first daughter. It was a warm gold and orange and turquoise, just vibrant and fiery and calming all at once.
I was wearing it on the day that I looked into my car’s rear view mirror and saw my friend looking in panic at something on her driveway. The snow was piled high and blocked my view. I thought she saw a dead cat.
But it was her husband. I left my little daughter in her car seat in the parked car and ran over.
When I was alone with my friend’s dead husband I could not leave his head on the ice. My friend had run into the house to get a phone. He did not seem to be alive but I was not sure. He looked dead. I put my hand on his chest and I turned him on to his side. When I moved him he involuntarily sighed. It did sound exactly like a man sighing but I also knew that the weight of his body had probably pushed the last bit of air from his chest.
I was alone with him for a minute or two. It was intimate except that I did not know him and he was already dead. He did not move. I knew he was dead but when my friend ran back I pumped on his chest as she took instructions. As we waited for the ambulance I took off my beautiful scarf and put it under his head. It seemed so horribly cold to lie with your bare head on the icy driveway.
My little girl was waiting in the car. I dropped her at her preschool later so that I could have tea with my friend who had lost her husband that very afternoon. My little daughter saw nothing. She was facing the other direction when I looked in the rear view mirror and saw the look of horror on my friend’s face. There was a big pile of snow so I could not see the body of her husband yet, I just saw her look and run.
That is one death. And one scarf. I have lost that scarf now and I have lost a lot of favorite things. I remember thinking, will I still want to wear this scarf later? And I did take it home, once his body had been moved to the truck and we were all inside having tea. I had my scarf. But I lost it later. I keep hoping I will find it in a bag of winter things.
When I went home I was all alone, the kids were in school. I crawled into my bed with all my clothes on. I called my Dad’s wife who was dying of heart break and I said, ‘I did not know who to call but I knew that if I called you I would not be able to make you more unhappy than you already are”. I knew she was miserable after the death of her beloved, my Dad. She never recovered. She helped me on that afternoon though. It was good to talk to someone.
Later when I took my little girl and her brother to visit my step mom on my deceased Dad’s birthday, so she would not be alone, she was a walking ghost.
Her face was grey, she was thin and under nourished although she made herself soups and took herself off to yoga and listened to audio tapes that tried to tell her to remain present. We cheered her and distracted her but I wish we had taken her home with us to our chaotic, loving home.
She died of a sudden heart attack on her bathroom floor, her sweet little nightgown covering her carefully tended body. Alone on the floor for days before anyone knew that she had not gone to her yoga retreat. When I heard I was frantic with panic. I thought I had killed her.
Had I left her a phone message that upset her and broke her heart? Had my phone message about the sexual abuse of my cherubic soft haired baby girl been the final blow? What did I say? I could not remember. Did I leave a message, did I call and ask her to call me back, was I weeping?
But thank god for my big sister, who always wants to solve the pain in the world. She threw in a hook, deep into the ocean and pulled out some words of salvation, She told me that if my step mother had heard I was in pain she would have called me back. She would have been there for me.
I felt great relief when I realized that my sister was right. I knew that was true. While my pain was almost killing me it would not have killed her. She would have called me and offered her help and love.
My message rang out in an empty house. She was already lying dead on the floor, oblivious to my pain or the curse of a storm cloud that was resting on ‘my happy little family’.
I cannot find that scarf. I have other things. I have my Dad’s wild staring eyes as I tell him I am going home because my kids needed me. I will see you in the spring, Dad.
I have the love of my step mother stamped in my heart. She told me she loved me when we sat by Dad’s hospital bed. She was a proper lady, very similar to my friend who invited the local volunteer firemen in for tea when her husband was carefully stowed away in the truck.
“What do I do now?” she asked me? And I said, “Let’s make some tea”.
We all sat around her table and talked about her husband. She cried a little and reached out involuntarily for his cap when she saw it on the back of the chair. A repressed gasp, just audible.
I can’t find that scarf anywhere and I was determined that its brush with death would not stop me from wearing it.
I have my happy family; my little girl has healed from her assaults but carries that wound forever inside. She is growing into a preteen ripe with womanly power. I smother her with love and attention.
I have no Mom anymore. She died the next year, singing and joking and lifting her eyebrows and squinting her eyes to continue contact with her children until the last moment. In my spirit world my dead are wrapped in my beautiful scarf.