This is How to Say Goodbye to Your Daughter

Fiction by Andrea Marcusa

Stay concrete. Tell her your gravestone in the cemetery ground next to her father’s is already chiseled with your name. Remind her to cut your year of death into the stone. Repeat each time she searches your face for new signs of life.
 
Let her hold your withered hand while you turn away from the purple blooming up your arm. Watch her wondering whether you’ll die today. Look her in the eyes. Don’t let on what you feel in your failing heart.
 
Try to listen, really listen, to her story about the time when she was a girl and you both made snow angels. Nod even if you have no memory whatsoever. Drift back to your own first snow angel. Sink into the feathery softness, smell the snow’s cold sweetness as you push your tiny legs and arms through the frosty down. Feel your amazement when you stand, turn around, and see the graceful arc of wings and soft lines of full skirt and realize you’ve created something beautiful. Oh, the pleasure of it.
 
Hold still while your daughter kisses the forehead of this body you can no longer stand. When you can’t bear her fingers’ touch any longer, feel you’ll drown in her tenderness, close your eyes and pretend to sleep. Keep them shut while she waits for them to blink open. Don’t peek. You always had more staying power than she did.
 
While you’re shut in darkness, remember the white light of the snow that day, how you fell back into the icy dust, and the way the world changed when you saw what you’d made. Stay there.
 
When your daughter tires of waiting for you to wake and seeks comfort from your nurse in the next room, shut out her words and tears. You’ve always been good at this.
 
Think back to that winter day. How while the heat of the late morning sun warmed your face, you didn’t notice the angel’s outlines slowly melting to a slushy hollow with bits of grass and soil bleeding through. You didn’t know how time could wear something away in what feels like only minutes.
 
When your daughter appears in her coat at your bedside to say goodbye, keep your eyes shut.
 
Don’t tell her you never imagined it like this. Don’t tell her you can’t find your way back. She’ll just try to turn you from your path, with all the reasons for you to stay.
 
Wait to hear her footsteps leave the bedroom. Don’t cough. Don’t wheeze. Don’t stir.
 
When she calls to you outside your door with a child’s Bye, Mommy, hold your breath. Hear the silence of her waiting, hear the emptiness. Hear her turn away. Don’t say a word.
 
Lift one eyelid. Wave.
 
Watch her walk. Watch her go.
 
This is how you make a final break.

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Andrea Marcusa’s literary fiction, essays and poetry have appeared in The Baltimore Review, River Styx, Citron Review, New South, and others. She’s received recognition from the writing competitions Glimmer Train, Third Coast, and New Letters and been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes. Andrea divides her time between creating literary works and photographs and writing articles on medicine, technology, and education. To learn more visit: andreamarcusa.com.