Writing through Grief

On Sunday, which happened to be Mother’s Day, I woke up to the sounds of my baby girl giggling in her pack-n-play. My mom and mother-in-law had spent the night, and we made breakfast while waiting for Husband and my father-in-law to come back from Austin where they had seen a musical. Mom and I had gone to a wedding the previous night, and my head still felt groggy from staying up past my bedtime. When Husband and his dad arrived, we ate and exchanged gifts, and then played with Lydia until they needed to go home. It was shaping up to be a lovely day.

Around 5 pm, Husband left the room to place a phone call. When he didn’t come back, I left Lydia in her swing to look for him. He was crumpled in a chair, wearing a face that can only mean one thing. I thought of all the elderly people in our lives, until he shook his head and said one word: “Mike.”

Our dear friend, Michael DuBose, was found in his truck on May 11. He was a month shy of his 31st birthday. We later found out he had suffered an aortic aneurism, but had gone quickly and without pain. Mike, as we affectionately called him (he always introduced himself by his full name), was Husband’s best friend. We were all three in band together—Mike was to be my section leader, before I became sick and couldn’t try out that year—and it is in no small way due to his friendship that Husband and I met and fell in love.

Mike was the only person among our circle of friends who shared my passion for literature. I could talk about Hemingway with him without feeling guilty for loving a writer whose work is too often simplistically dismissed among my colleagues as anti-feminist. He received his PhD from PennState just last Spring, and held a lectureship at the University of South Carolina Beaufort. He was looking forward to interviews at a number of campuses, and while I started to sink into an alt-ac alternate reality, his academic star was slowly rising.

It’s really quite difficult to put into words how much a person means to you, especially when they are no longer here to tell them. After the initial shock, Husband and I sunk into a seemingly endless lethargy. The funeral has yet to be scheduled due to difficulties with bringing him home to Texas, so we are stuck in a state of limbo. In an effort to stay distracted, I have thrown myself into my writing, work, and crafts, but haven’t yet been able to bring myself to open my dissertation draft. I should be able to draw from my research on sentimentalism and sympathy for comfort, but what is more silent than death? I try to stay hidden, fearing that at any moment a word or phrase will stick out and stab me in the stomach again.

Mike enjoyed sending letters (old-fashioned letters, with good paper, ink, and sealed with wax), and I never knew him to be speechless or unable to express himself. So I will do my best to articulate why I feel this way: Mike was my friend. And I miss him.

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