Finding Him There

The single breath we hold
on the thinnest verge of sight:
not there      there.
A curve nearly naked
an arc of almost,
a wisp of becoming …
Kimberly Blaeser

For Shelby & Robin

Jimmy’s cancer appeared out of nowhere,
severe headaches its only calling card.
The teenage-onset migraines that should have been,
the brain tumor that was.

A relentless killer, it catapulted us into a war we couldn’t win.
Deceptive short-lived victories and small gains, we were defeated in the end.
A brutal reminder I couldn’t keep my son safe or prevent him from leaving,
no matter how hard I tried.

Jimmy is eight years gone now,
taken at 21,
just as his life was rolling out in front of him,
full of promise and possibility.

I cannot reassemble him with what I have left.
His carefully curated clothing,
the stuffed penguin collection and well-worn books,
do not come close to capturing all that he was.

So I return to the scene of the crime.
The site where it happened, but not the rooms.
Looking for clues, searching for signs, trying to reconstruct my boy.

And there in Portland, I find him
In the spaces and places he loved best of all.
The expanses of green, the unruly gray skies,
the rush of the Willamette, its bridges lined up like soldiers.

I spend time with his chosen family
hearing Jimmy in the silence between their words.
Knowing they miss and remember him still,
even as we talk of a life he is not here to lead.

Jimmy runs through us,
binding us together with invisible thread.
Somehow he knew we’d need each other
to navigate the aftermath of his departure.

His second mother Shelby and I conjure him together.
Instinctively knowing what he say,
marveling at his wisdom in bringing us together
and the way he lives on in the love that flows between us.

Jimmy is gone, yet he is everywhere here.
In Shelby’s laugh, in her husband’s sweet smile,
in the quiet country neighborhood we lived in,
on the lush playing fields he once ran on.

All of us love what will not last, what cannot stay.
We carry on because we must,
breathing our beloveds back to life as best we can.
It’s how we go on, how we find our way.

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