the second loss

The anniversary can pass unnoticed, but the body remembers.

The pall is cast over sunny days. The chest is tight at the sight of sun on bare trees, the smell of bulbs bursting under cold earth.

Somehow the anniversary escaped you, but the grief exploded within, shadows dancing in the mind’s eye–church basements, rehearsing songs for the dead days after their unexpected departures.

The anniversary escaped, but the mind traced the image of a claddagh pendant, which now rests, rusted, in a tray of keepsakes.

The front of the brain forgot the date, but the stem held fast to the feeling–being surrounded–swimming through waves of adults’ eyes to the other children, fawns in headlights, eyes wide, bodies soaking in the grown-ups’ fear and grief.

We did and gave what we could to each other. The third loss gave final moments of love and peace to the second. The second and third gave the initial moments of support after the first.

The losses circle and spiral in my mind; where one ends, the next begins. The neurons are confused; they collide instead of connecting.

But an order remains. Keely there for Jenny, Will there for Keely, the phone call from Will days before no one was there for him. The tenth, the sixteenth, the twenty-ninth.

March has never been the coming of spring. March is the end of winter, the last sputters and fits and tantrums before it gives way to warmth. It stabs at our memories with these days of warmth, dividing ice, the first teases of thaw. It stabs at our memories with the days of wretched grief, cleaving the sun in two, strangling the crocuses and buds.

The second loss gave perspective to the first, and the third loss gave chaos to the world. Nothing is too horrible to be true. The second loss had us searching for connection. The third had us grasping the earth, hoping not to be hurled into atmosphere. The second was there for the first. The third was there for the second. After the third, we had ourselves and each other. We gave what we could.