January Elegy #1

I wish I had thought of it before now – a year of elegies, one for every month since you died until we get to July.  Perhaps July gets 2? But I didn’t think of it until just now. And I hadn’t thought about elegies at all until Lana sent one about Bluebells and you not being the one behind the camera next year when they bloom at Still Point. That would be a reliable evocation – the presence of the absence behind the camera. I could do that one again and again. I could look at the image you took a year ago every month up until the month you died and I could lament the fact that no one will ever see me like you did. No one will ever see me like that again. No one will ever again see the me that you saw when you looked at me through the camera, then stood back and looked around the camera, and then through the lens again. I had never done that before with anyone else – photo shoots the way we started to do them after you got the studio. Or before, that the time we went into the woods with my designs and photographed me wrapped in rugs held together with shawl pins, and then up on the rocks with my jewelry on as the day was failing and we were losing light. What month was that?  There were no leaves on the trees. But it wasn’t too cold. Was it January? Or was it in the fall. I don’t know. I should look. Now I’m curious.

The last photographs you took were of me and Nora sitting at the kitchen table eating dinner after Lana left and only hours before you started bleeding again, the bleeding that took you away slowly – 26 hours. It was around 4 am that last time when I called 911 and we had already become so good at it, so orderly, that you confined the blood to the bathtub and the sink, stuffed a towel in your mouth, and then we sat on the steps waiting for the ambulance while your blood came out and soaked the cloth in your hands.

You moved suddenly, quickly, in bed and I woke up. You were sitting with your back to me and I could see you were doing something with your hands so I figured you were inflating the cuff. I asked you – call 911? You signaled with your hand and I called.

I wish I had documented your blood in the tub the next day. But I only photographed the first time. I was imagining those images as part of the show we talked about. The second bleed was the worst because you lost consciousness from having the speaking valve in. But it wasn’t as much blood as the third. The third bleed took it all. Your blood flowed and stopped and flowed and stopped and flowed until there was not enough to supply your heart with liquid to oxygenate your blood, feed your brain and keep the heart pumping and the lungs inflating. When there is finally not enough, everything fails.

How many times do we encounter such tipping points when we experience a change and know we can never go back? The exhale is not followed, ever, by the inhalations it has chased since the first one that initiates a life-rhythm of beats and breaths that speed and slow but always succeed each other until it slows too much and stops.

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