by ANASTASIA C. GERDES
death comes for you at infancy
you don’t know who died
you don’t know who lived
you don’t know anyone but yourself
and even then, who are you?
your name is orphan.
death comes for you at eight
someone leaves a message in the middle of the night
on the old corded phone
the one your mom said not to answer
because you might get hurt.
“she’s dying. i talked to her today.
dramatic decline. she will be gone soon.”
the voice on the other end of the phone
was talking about your best friend’s mom.
you loved her.
don’t answer the phone, mom said.
because you might get hurt.
death comes for you at twelve
the last time you saw your grandma daisy alive
you were getting ready to move thousands of miles away
the last time you saw your grandma daisy alive,
you told her, “you’re my favorite grandma.”
she asked you why
and you said- “because you are the only one
who loves me as i am.”
she said, “i love you.”
you have been waiting to hear those three little words
death comes for you at seventeen
the last memory you have of your grandma c
is her frail body being transferred onto a cold metal slab
you had never seen a dead body
but then again, you had never seen someone fall asleep
and never wake up, either.
hours ago, the world passed you by
the birds chirping outside the window
harmonizing with the hissing of the oxygen tanks.
your best friend comes by to take you out to eat
but you aren’t hungry. you haven’t been for a while.
your mom tells you to say goodbye
in case grandma died while you are gone
you tell her things, but you don’t remember exactly what
you just remember how the birds and the oxygen
faded into the background
and then there was only the two of you
your silent tears falling on her slowly rising chest.
a body only being kept alive by an aluminum tank and a cannula
this is it. She isn’t waking up.
you know now that just because you’re breathing,
doesn’t mean you’re alive.
death comes for you at twenty.
eight times. twenty is your year of death.
but there is one, you’ll never forget
because you don’t cry at funerals.
but this time, you wept.
you wept all the way from the viewing
his face sunken and empty
it can’t be him.
but it is, because his daughters
are standing in front of his casket
and crying out “dad”
to the service
his youngest daughter read the eulogy
she said he was holding on for her
and that he only left when she said
“it’s okay dad. you can go.”
you wept in the funeral procession
you were in the back seat of your dad’s car
you were trying not to show your tears
but a lump was forming in your throat
your heart started burning, and you let out a small whimper
when all the military folks on the side of the road
saluted their fallen hero
and the ones he left behind.
to the interment
the presentation of the flag to the family-
no one tells you that it’s the single
most heart-wrenching thing to witness
second only to watching your best friends,
your family, really—
weep over their father’s casket
for the last time.
when you lose someone
“they’re never really gone.”
“they’re in your heart,”
“in your memories.”
“locked in your photographs.”
but what actually happens to the grief?
what you didn’t know
is that it lasts forever
because death always comes for you.
About the Author
Anastasia C. Gerdes is a student of English at the University of Virginia. She has immersed herself in everything from music performance to pharmaceutical science but has found a home in the written word. When she is not studying, you can find her volunteering at the nearest animal rescue center.
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