I have tried to forget some of the stories he told,
Tried to forget the smarting pain,
But I cannot forget his name: Tobias—
The first person I held as he breathed his last,
Yielded his spirit and died in my arms.
I consider his last days were time allotted to teach me,
And for me to learn the lessons of approaching death,
Its eternal silence and the tender, horrid beauty,
Moments of affection, humor, cold fear and bitter sorrow
As we passed the time together, prayed together,
Waited for the inevitable to come.
Is it possible not to learn from such experiences?
And yet the learning is so dense, so precious
It is difficult to allow words that will express
His struggle, his peace, the resolution that comes
At the end of life…. the coughing, the intensity of pain,
Last words, slowing of the breath, spreading
Coldness of his hands and feet, fluttering of the pulse….
The bitter closing of his eyes; the acid tears in mine.
Thirty-eight years later, I cannot find the words.
I need a drink. I want to get in my car and drive north.
I want to find a cigarette or walk the dog….
Anything but think of Tobias.
I remember lying in the bed beside him
As his body slowly grew cold,
Nurses urging me to leave—
He had no family, no close friends….
Which is why I was there.
I did not want him to die alone.
Thirty-eight years later, I am haunted
By the vision of his body under thin sheets,
The chatter of nurses down the hall,
A silver moon reflecting through the window,
The necessary mirror above a small chest and
How slowly I learn what Tobias had to teach.
Still, after thirty-eight years,
He visits me in vivid dreams—-
Though nothing but his shadow remains to speak,
A shadow among shadows hovering within the cloud
That pauses to whisper once again
To one who lives in sun-drenched light.