When you snap this photo in the morning ... and it haunts you all day.
When the empty chair is not an empty chair ... you know he’s been in it ... is in it now ... you look to see ...
You say, out loud, softly, it’s rather early, “Hey Mackey,” as if you’ll go make his coffee ...
You go to bed early this night, the day felt peaceful, you’re moving forward, but something heavy upon you ... you know it well by now ... it’s just loss. It was there when you were paralyzed with grief ... and it visits at your happiest moments now. It’s here today. It will visit tomorrow.
You wake ... it’s the middle of the night. You’re not restless, just awake ... and there is something calling you. Your grateful no work tomorrow. But you planned that. You knew.
Still in bed, in the darkness that holds you, this photo becomes this cover. It won’t be the cover necessarily, but like the 55 draft versions of the manuscript and the 250 Advance Readers who cheered you onward, it’s just one more piece of this great adventure that holds you ... that steadies you ... that reminds you that you started something that you will finish ... and you’re so close.
And then, as you ready to post this photo to your friends, a coyote howls. No, it’s a real coyote and it’s howl is a long drawn-out howl, and you wonder why you’ve never heard him before ... he howls over and over and first you are scared and then you laugh.
His voice is so magnificent, you find your recorder on your phone and as you click ‘record’ he riffs off another long howl. It’s followed by another and another and another until an entire pack of coyotes are howling at the moon. You know you have never heard this before.
You walk to the sliding door, the one where you took the picture, the picture that haunted you, it’s now 2:20 a.m. and you open the door and there is no moon. The river is a black line in a would-be sky. And the howling continues and you think no one will believe this.
You walk back to bed pulling the covers up while pressing play on your recording of the howling... and ... nothing ... there is no evidence of the howling ... of the symphony of wildness that has filled you up....
And you want to preserve it ... the howling and the wildness ... so you write about it.
And then you think ... what day is it now, is it yesterday or today? You know it’s “the week”. It’s the week that it happened, of course you know that. And you’ve taken the week off ... to move forward ... and to just be with it ... to be with him if it is possible.
But you haven’t looked at the days. Certainly not the number of the day ... so as not to start the countdown to when he will die, again.
But the waiting over, you look, is it this day or that one? Are we together or apart? Am I next to him ... or on his pillow, alone.
There is no more howling. None. Silence overtakes the darkness in my room. A room we shared. And I look.
It’s the 26th. He won’t die until tomorrow. And today, the 26th, we are alone ... all night... and he is leaving ... he’s told me, literally, he is leaving ... and then, his body tells me too. So I just try to be with him, to hold what is left of us and it’s 3:26 a.m right now, and I remember looking at the clock back then ... morning will be here soon, but life will be different. Forever.
Back in today, I know the sun will rise. I imagine it will be magnificent. This makes me smile. There are no more tears. I’m filled with joy.
What’s Better Than This? It’s the story of happiness, gone wild. I’ve never been able to explain it. You know, in a sentence. Such happiness. Such grief. So much wonder ... left to enjoy forever. So I wrote it ... it took 350 pages to say what I could not say. But tonight, I know how to say it. It was, it is, extraordinary love, in the form of a howl.
You’re Still Here....