Today I am truly excited and most honored to host my favorite poetess Nicole Marie from Words and Other Things. Today’s compassion story is honest, raw, emotional, and I should warn you a box of tissues might be handy to have. This post is sure to touch everyone’s heart.
HE WOULDN’T ACCEPT MY COMPASSION by Nicole Marie
[kuh m-pash–uh n]
1. a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.
As I am writing this, it has been eleven days since I lost my grandfather. Eleven days since something jolted me awake at 6:39 AM, just moments before my phone rang, as if a part of me already knew. I think it was him, telling me before my mother could.
Our son is due on his birthday, the 26th of May. I strongly believe in that depressing circle of life, the one that gives us a bouncing, fleshy child crying his or her way into this world while another is deep in his hospital bed, family members passing around calming memories like a bottle of wine.
I watched a man who went to dinner every night (veal parmesan, lobster, filet mignon) throw up two bites of sugar-free apple pie. His last drink was from a Styrofoam cup of hot tea instead of a tall glass of Chianti. I scanned the arms that used to lift me, that with weight loss had now started sagging at their edges, home to a constellation of needles and wires, a bloodied cotton ball on the back of one hand covered with clear medical tape. It bothered me, how badly I wanted them to change it. They’d pounded on his chest the night before to bring him back to life. I wanted them to put a fresh cotton ball on his wound.
I fussed with his sheets, wondered how many bodies they’d warmed before him, whether they were still here. In the ICU I tried my best to avoid glancing into the other rooms on my way to his. Everything smelled like an ending. Even the fluorescent lighting felt like a burden. I squeezed his left hand while my grandmother held on to his right and I was heavy with the frustration that I could do nothing to help him, maybe put his arm around my shoulders and get him to the car, take him home where he longed to be, make him a casserole and pour two glasses of red, light him a cigar and hear about Vegas. I wanted him to jump up and laugh, claim he had fooled us all, sling a shotgun over his back and go hunting with my father. I was aching to fix him, but I couldn’t. I could only flail as he died.
This is where he’d stop me, my grandfather. He’d tell me to take my compassion and fold it like a silk handkerchief, tuck it into my jewelry box and save it for someone who needs it. While we knitted ourselves like a blanket around his bed he told my husband how much he loves women fawning over him. My uncle made an inappropriate comment and my grandfather called him an asshole, laughed even. I begged him not to leave before I could see him again and he said the only place he’d be going was the men’s room. Here we were terrified of losing him and he was the one comforting us with silly jokes.
Eleven days ago, my grandfather left me with a gift: the blessing to love and have been loved by the most selfless human being I’ve ever known. My son will know more than just his name; he will know enough to speak of him as if he’d known him his whole life.
He wouldn’t accept my compassion. Instead, in the face of death, my grandfather did something remarkable: he gave me his.
Nicole Marie is a bartender, dreamer, writer, and lover of red wine. She is Contest Coordinator and Assistant Poetry Editor for Philadelphia Stories Magazine, as well as Compilations Editor for Tipsy Lit. She lives in South Jersey with her amazing husband and soon-to-be baby boy.