“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.”William Shakespeare, Macbeth
When the chaplains arrived, I told them I needed them to wait until I had someone to hold my hands. I told them I could not hear their words until I wasn’t alone. I told them they would have to say what they needed to say in a single sentence. One sentence that would somehow tell it all. Their only allotted space. Their character limit. I knew the news was bad. I knew how little I could bear in that moment.
“Your husband was in a hiking accident today, and he fell to his death.” Did they include the coordinating conjunction? Was it a comma splice? Did they use the pronouns, or did they say his name? Was it one sentence or two they actually gave? How could a single sentence be the sum? I parse the moment in my mind, searching for language to express the darkness that overtook my life in that moment. I have more words now to explain the details of his accident. Yet I struggle to describe the weight of his absence, my life without him here. I find I am at a loss for words.
Before the chaplains left that night, after they had repeated their sentence(s) to my four children, I stood outside in the summer night with them. “I need to say the words,” I said. And so I repeated that single sentence, made it real by speaking it into the air myself. Like the Divine in ancient creation narratives, I spoke Rob’s death into existence. Not like the muddled mumbling of the dream-addled mind in sleep. But clear, simple, shaking, afraid, real.
I wish for all the world that I could undo those words. Delete or at least redact them somehow. I have never hated words so much. Yet, words are all I have now. They are both enemy and friend. Words to bury Rob, yes. Words also to remember him. Words to make him come alive again in my children’s memories. Words to conjure up his spirit when I need direction, hope, and courage. A lifetime of words will never suffice to express how much I loved him. So I will give a single sentence: Rob has died, and I will never be the same.