How to Dress for Goodbye


Dear Julie,

I'm so sorry. I know he might die. Welcome to the wonderful terrible classroom at the bedside.

You'll live in a chair, go without sleep for weeks. You'll rack up numbers and charts like Monopoly money, buy houses of possibility, build them in sand. You'll learn to calculate chances of survival.

The nurses will put on music in the room. You know they'll be ready, if you have to say goodbye. You'll sing, after you're all talked out. You'll forget time.

You'll miss him, even when you're by his side; he will be busy with hanging onto life. So in the quiet hours, you will finally write all the love letters, forgive everything. In the busy hours, you'll pray hard.

That will be the easy part.

The hard part is when you listen to the nurses, and take five. The walk to the car, feet thudding with every step, rain that makes you look up in surprise. On the radio, a song will play loud enough to match your roaring grief. Hit the gas, streaming tears. You are here because you loved him this much. The glory matches the price.

If you go home for a night, don't smell his deodorant: it's a grenade. You can rage and loose your fists at the sky, but it will fail to enclose you in its limits; your heart will go supernova anyway, bleeding livid rivers into space.

The end might come.

If they say it's time, pack like it's your honeymoon. Let your last week together be your best yet. Wear all your favorite things, as if you were in Paris, like he promised you...someday. Radiate to match the dying of the light.

Rehearse the last dance. Find a patch of bare skin. Knowledge held in glaciers will melt over the dry places, rush across the desert of machines. You'll know what to do. Love will come for you in icy, shocking waterfalls.

You will not have to ask for help. You'll be written over like a destination address for grace. Angels will shower you with pieces of hearts, half hearts, whole hearts. Gifts will gather in astonishing piles. Magic will blanket the scorching loss, love will rain down on the fires.

At the end of all things, you will be blinded by the light that mirrors the very depth of the darkness. And seeing it will forever change your heart.

The part of you that stretches for God with an acrobat's trust at the top of the fall—your soul’s leaping arc—will come to know that when you lose everything, when the veils drop, everyone is unmasked as love. Any stranger can catch you. Love is, inevitable. You cannot fall.

Then whatever the outcome, you can rest, holding hands in the hammock of the net, in the truth of every epic, the secret behind every backyard dance: that yes, love wins. Sweet aching girl, even if he dies, I promise: love will be with you, in the abyss.