The emptiness was like hunger and indigestion, all
tucked up under her lungs. She was reminded of her father’s
death. The call she had taken that evening in her tiny med
school apartment, her mother telling her that he was in the
hospital. She had not changed clothes or told anyone she was
leaving. Took her purse and keys and drove straight to the
She was shocked when she entered that room-the sheen
of his face. the ashen tint of his skin. his body so much
smaller in that bed. The infection raced through his body.
The doctors’ optimism shifted into tenuous hope and then
acceptance that there was nothing they could do.
He died in the night.
The days she had passed at home were a blur, but
months later. back in something like normalcy, she had
woken one morning with this same pain. At the time, it was
like being devoured from the inside out.
Something had shifted in her that morning. The
realization that her father was truly gone felt both sudden
and complete. She was stunned at how gone he was. I keep
looking for traces of you, and you are just so absolutely
gone, she had written in her journal that day. There should
be more of you lingering. I should feel you. know that you
arc with me. It’s just absolute, stark absence.
She still felt the anger of that day, the idea that his
silence was an affront. She had meant more to him than that.
Everywhere she went. she wanted to scream out to him to
show himself. but it was all just the normal. silent world
staring back at her with no sign of him in it. She was
desperate to tell him that she was not going to be okay
without him. Not ever again. She was grateful for what he
had given her. that he was her father. but with him gone,
she was left with this forever hole in her heart because he was so
much of her life. And it just didn’t make any sense that there
was a world without him in it.
It never quite went away. that feeling. She eased herself
off the floor and drew the shade just as the sun slipped again
behind a gray cloud.
None of this could have happened if you had stayed.
And, as always, she knew it was true.
from Exhume by Danielle Girard