“My life closed twice before its close

It yet remains to see

If Immortality unveil

A third event to me.

So huge, so hopeless to foresee

As those that twice befell-

Parting is all we know of Heaven,

And all we need of Hell. “
—Emily Dickinson

The first was that January 8 years ago, when my sister called me with, as she said , “some icky news”. She had found about about her adenocarcenoma.
Fear slipped into the booth beside me in the noisy, gay old tavern where I took the call. And it went home with me, attended my waking and sleeping ever after.

It foreclosed forever a certain insouciance I had enjoyed.

But I got used to it. I got used to her calling every six months or so and telling me that the scans indicated success, that she was “staying the course”.

On January 2, 2022, she called and said, “I haven’t exactly lied to you about my illness, but I haven’t been completely honest, either.” And I could hear the whistling of the oxygen tank in the background.

That wasn’t true, really: she had told me, all along , the disease was…not vanquished, but had let me believe it was at a stalemate.
But One year ago today she called to tell me the tie was broken. The disease would, very soon now, claim its trophy. Death. At that point, it turned out, she had fifteen days to live.

That was the second “close” of my life.

I totes get what Dickinson meant. CAN anything be as devastating as what has already occurred—twice? Is there yet a third awful event coming, speeding toward her like an asteroid, like an arrow loosed by a concealed sniper? She knows she herself will die, of course, but I don’t think that’s what she’s talking about. I think she’s cowering at the thought of yet another awful bereavement.

As for the poem’s epigrammatic final couplet: All we know for sure about an afterlife is that the dead are no longer here with us. Irrevocably “parted” from us, no matter where, if anywhere, they may be.
And isn’t that torture, isn’t that punishment, enough? The awful torments of hell, can they do much more in the way of inflicting agony, than this grief?

Golly, I HOPE not.

2 thoughts on “Anniversary

  1. Hugs! (Has E. Dickenson met St. Paul, or the author of the Letter to the Hebrews?) I’ve always felt kinda sorry for “The Belle of Amherst”, myself,

    Liked by 2 people

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