Jan Haag teaches journalism and creative writing at Sacramento City College where she is the chair of the journalism department and advises student publications. She is the author of Companion Spirit, a collection of poems about her husband’s death at the age of 48, published by Amherst Writers & Artists Press. She leads writing groups in Sacramento where the topic of grief and loss often arises. Read more of her beautiful writing here.

Before my brain could begin
to process it — you, falling to the airport
floor, pulse fluttering in your neck
until someone rolled you onto your back,
and the fluttering stopped —
Loss opened the shuttered door
in my heart, walked through again,
stood next to me, put his arm
around me, and said, “There, there.”

We stood there, Loss and I,
watching as strangers knelt around
you, a perfect halo of helpers.
Grief showed up, lending his warmth
to our little huddle. “Hey, girl,”
said Grief, old friend that he is.
“Don’t watch — or maybe, do.
It’ll help later.”

Then Hope joined us, nudging me.
“Take a picture, honey,” she whispered.
“If he comes back, he’ll ask
if you got a picture.”

That made me smile; Hope knows
us so well. I extracted myself
from Grief’s gentle arms and said,
“Excuse me,” without explanation,
because Grief understands.

I stepped into the glory of humanity
around you, took out my phone and
snapped an image of you there,
a large man pumping your chest,
a smaller one holding your head,
checking your pulse, another arriving
with a machine, someone placing
pads with wires on your chest.

“You know,” Loss whispered, trying
to prepare me,”this doesn’t always

But Hope grabbed my hand and,
though no one else did, sang out,
“Clear!” a second before one
of the helpers pushed the button.
And suddenly, there you were, pale
blue eyes open, eyelashes fluttering,
the throng around you able to breathe again,
you, back on our side.

“Bye-bye,” Loss said, releasing me.
“For now,” Grief said, already fading.
“There you go,” Hope whispered,
as my life restarted with one


Dick in a hospital bed with white sheets on it. He's holding a huge white heart pillow that covers all but his head.


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