I think of Richard often enough. I have a black and white photo of him on my studio bulletin board. He smiles in that picture. It is the only image my mind carries with him smiling. My memories reach back only as far as the start of his cancer. He was thirteen. I was four.
I remember we used to collect empty Coke bottles, return them for the ten cent deposit at the local gas station. In that manner, we had money for candy bars, back when candy bars cost a dime.
For a long time I thought one of those empty bottles was not so empty, but carried cancer into Richard’s hands. I was young then and that explanation explained the unexplainable.
One summer home from university, I installed insulation in the attic. While working, I found a saxophone case with Richard’s name on it. I have no memory of him playing saxophone, so have no clue if he liked jazz or some other musical genre. For years after that I paid attention to saxophone players and purchased some of their albums.
In the years after cancer took Richard from us, I believed he looked out for me from heaven. Then my belief changed and he was born to a new life and lived again somewhere on earth. Eventually, my belief evolved into seeing Richard everywhere simultaneously, like God is everywhere simultaneously. This belief includes myself. Richard is part of me. Like God is part of me. Like breath is part of me. And so on.
When I see myself smile in the mirror, I see Richard smile.
copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney
Prose poems? Essay? Personal rambling? Journal entry? Sometimes it is difficult to know what label to place on a piece or what category it fits in. Because this started out as a poem, then I decided it was better as prose I place it in the prose poem category.
Dealing with loss, death, is a problematic thing for people. Especially those of us who experienced it at a young age. The death of a sibling, affects the whole family, the family structure and cohesion. My sister (who is older) and I have spoken how the parents she grew up with were very different than the parents I grew up with, even though they were the same people. She remembers them before Richard’s death affected the family.
After twenty-five years of writing poetry, I still write a lot of pieces that deal with the death of someone. Richard. My daughter. The four people I knew who took their own lives. Odd, I don’t write about the people who died from AIDs back in the 1990s. Usually, I am not writing about them, but my loss of them, how it affected me, and how it still affects me.
Mostly I have days that are good, but some days the loss feelings surface to be acknowledged and re-felt again. I wish our society or community was such that when I am spotted having one of those days, I could say, “I am grieving Richard again that is why I have the blues or am a little off kilter.” And it would be socially acceptable. In fact, I would get what is needed from the people around me—a commitment to the connections we share, empathy for the sorrow.
I think to celebrate life, we have to celebrate death in a manner of speaking. Denial or deferment does nothing good.
Oh, well. Society won’t change over night. Nor will community. I guess going forward bravely and speaking the truth is better than the deflection or denial.
Love & Light