Thursday, March 10, 2016

A Letter To Rose

Author's note: The following essay was my entry into the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition which takes place every two years. Everyone suffers loss and each person has their own way of coping--mine is to write and this is probably the most honest thing I've written. Even though it didn't win the contest, Rose's daughter, Elizabeth, told me a poem I wrote and read aloud at her mom's memorial service was framed and hanging on her wall and  also her grandmother's wall.
To me, nothing captures the spirit and writings of Erma more than the acknowledgement that someone likes your words well enough to hang them up on a door, wall or refrigerator.
And you know what, there's nothing losing about that.
With the family's blessing, I'm sharing the essay here.

Dear Rose,

I can't believe you're gone. It seems like yesterday we were sharing stories and laughs over a large sweet tea from Chick-Fil-A--about the guy that always forgot your name. A lot has happened since then.

I've thought about what brought me to the post office that day. Five years since I'd dropped by, but on my drive home, thoughts of "Have lunch with Rose" wouldn't leave my mind.  We'd tried to get together but our plans always fell through.

I was shocked when I walked in the door. Sitting in a chair working the counter--which was never allowed--was someone unrecognizable. "What's wrong?" I asked.

"Doctors say pneumonia, but I'm not so sure."

We talked, but you didn't have the strength for lunch, so we planned it for another day. How could I have known it would be your last day at work? How could we have known that another day would never come?

I received the call while driving and pulled over to get the news.

Stage four. Cancer. You’re only 50.

I called as soon as I got home."It's stage four,” you said, “but treatable. I'll do anything to get out of work." We laughed together at that, but "treatable" is what we clung to.

"I'll visit when I get back," I said.

“You take the best vacations,” you said. “Bring me a souvenir”

"Are you coming to visit today?" your daughter asked. "Mom is having trouble."

“I’ll be there soon.”

"She's here, Rose. Your friend is here," your mom said.

The light returned to the room when you opened your eyes--an afternoon of laughter, tears and memories but heartbreak just outside the door. "Thank you so much for coming," your sister said, “You gave us back our laughter,” and we cried some more. "When will you be back?"

I saw the look on her face as she led me into the room. "Maybe, a week at most," your mom said. "How can this be happening?"

You died two days later.

I think you were there when I read the poem to our friends at the service. It made us cry but we all laughed at the punch line.  Everyone came.

Finally, Rose, I just wanted you to know that you have a new granddaughter, your namesake, and she's beautiful. Your grandson is so sweet and kind, but sometimes, he just stares at her. Maybe he knows you’re looking out at him.

Every one of us has an empty place that will never be whole again. The laughter may come and go but love lasts forever and we’ll always remember your name.

I miss you.

Signed, your friend.


Unknown said...

Your letter to Rose is sad and sweet and filled with your love for your friend. I'm sorry it didn't win (mine didn't either), but I'm glad you shared it with us. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Oh, G, this is beautiful! Thank you!



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