One of Those Moments

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Photography provided by Samantha Broderick

Dear Mackenzie,

I once read that the present state – that space between the past and the future –merely describes the time it takes our minds to process real-time events, by which point the moment is already in the past. In that sense, the present is less about time and more like a horizon, an idea used to separate perceptions; an always-fleeting line between what was and what may be. I suppose that’s true. But I also suppose there has to be an exception. Or an addendum. There must be something, some state, some word that bridges the “what was” and the “what may be” with “what is”; a moment only to be experienced in the in between, yet mounting enough to shift time and land and ideas. An experience that fuses the moments and borders of your life into a single round object suspended in the hollow of your gut. I feel I’ve experienced that maybe a couple times. And I’ve come to call it tragedy.

But even so, there’s hardly a way to sum up one of the worst moments of my life – discovering your lung disease – into a single word. It doesn’t seem possible for one word to hold such authority, it would be too disturbing to use. But if there was a more fleshed-out definition for the kind of tragedy that describes crying in front of your boss, yelling at the TV during a Divorce Court episode, and binge-eating Dominoes parmesan bites at 1:00AM, then I’d use that word to describe all the moments following that one moment.

Not that it’s all horrible – like that scene in Terms of Endearment when Shirley MacLaine erupts at the nurses so they’ll give her cancer-ridden daughter an unscheduled dose of her meds (but you haven’t seen that movie, so yet another one of my post-menopausal references is sent to pasture). No, I wouldn’t label this entire experience as horrible. In fact, it’s probably the only time in my life when I’ve walked through each day with such desperate absorption; listening deeply to every sound and squeezing every moment dry. I find myself not wanting a second to slip by without acknowledgement and validation, now knowing more intimately that this brief time we all have with one another is precious and without equal.

I’ve come to desire little more than making sure you’re warm enough or cool enough, that you have a steady supply of sour gummy worms, and that we have at least 15 seconds of uninterrupted eye-contact each day – like that scene in Deep Impact when the first comet hits earth and the tidal wave is about to kill Leelee Sobieski’s parents but instead of running they stand and stare into each other’s eyes, rubbing their dirty hands on each other’s sweaty faces in what they know is their last moment together (I know you’ve seen that movie, we both cry at the same spots).

Now, don’t confuse me with Batman; tragedy doesn’t always produce a hero (and I would look crazy in black rubber pants, like a post-Thanksgiving Hefty bag). Crying more than usual and buying you gas station candy doesn’t garner me praise. In fact, I like to think I’ve become more self-serving than anything, just with complimentary lighting and one of those Beyoncé stage fans that makes me seem 12 feet tall.

No. Behind the pretense remains the fact that I want you to be okay for purely selfish reasons. I want you to be okay so you can continue to listen to my random diatribes on the importance of feminism and somehow not roll your eyes, to put my jeans on hangers even though they belong on the floor, to pretend to like my meatloaf when it ends up tasting like an Ugg boot, and to palm the back of my neck when you know I’m about to say something snarky at a dinner party with people you know I don’t like. To always give me the first bite. To take my side when you know I’m wrong. To remind me when I should call my mom. To be the bigger person. To end up getting me the same Christmas present I got you. To give our children strong names and long legs and provide them with the kind of love, patience, and guidance I could never give them on my own no matter how hard I would try to mimic you. I want us to get to our 90th anniversary to prove that I eventually grow into my head. And I want to try getting us there with the only superpower I can fake: words.

I guess that’s all I’m really trying to say here and what I want to continue saying with these letters: “If we have the words, there’s always a chance that we’ll find the way.” And perhaps by finding the way, we’ll be led to discover and sooner accept the difference between life as it’s imagined and life as it really is; life as it must be.

So, here’s the first of many to you, my love. Unqualified and fallible as I am, I have a knowledge of your goodness. And I want to share it. For it’s the only perfect thing about me.

Love, H

10 Responses
  • Anonymous
    January 5, 2016

    Beautiful! I may have a new ripple in my heart after reading this.

  • Michelle Mosley
    January 5, 2016

    This is beautiful Henry. I can’t say I “know” what you mean or that I “understand”. It’s just beautiful. I did almost lose my husband this past year so some of your thoughts were mine exactly. You put into words what we all want for Mackenzie, and why we want it. And what we want and pray for–for you too. In the meantime we trust.

  • Michelle Mosley
    January 5, 2016

    Beautiful. You filled my heart as I read this.

  • Mandie
    January 5, 2016

    beautiful. so lovely and pure.

  • Nonny Smith
    January 5, 2016

    Henry, you whisked me away to another, more significant place. I guess it’s that spot in my heart that keeps getting shoved aside to make room for “things” of no consequence. Just knowing Mackenzie helps me go there and want to stay.

  • Mama Rebecca
    January 5, 2016

    So here I sit in my Principal office trying to look administratively-ish (sp?) as possible and I’m crying like a sentimental mama. Oh wait, I am a sentimental mama who raised a remarkable young man who could put his feelings so succinctly into words that it becomes a movie as much as an essay. Thank you sweet son for loving one of the most beautiful women I know–Mackenzie. I am, and will always be proud to call you son.
    “The Mama”

  • Amy Bernard
    January 6, 2016

    Wonderful Henry. You have brought me to tears but more so closer to your hearts. I love you both.

  • 'Ofa Weaver
    January 6, 2016

    Henry this warms my heart. Your love for Mackenzie exists in a way that is uplifting and is what is right with the world. Love to you and your beautiful bride…you both take my breath away.

  • Lisa Bennett.
    January 6, 2016

    Every human should be so loved.

  • Harold Miner
    February 19, 2016

    “I have a knowledge of your goodness. And I want to share it. ” This is beautiful.

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