For A Minute There, I Lost Myself


It’s strange that it took me almost three years to realize that, within the span of just over a year, I bore witness to both the death of my father and to the birth of my son.

Bore witness as in I was in the room for both. Watching as the most important man in my life drew his last breath and, just over a year later, watching as the future most important man in my life drew his first.

Both events were about life – albeit on opposite ends of that spectrum – and both events saw me standing over a hospital bed, watching more or less helplessly as nature took hold and did the work it’s been doing for millennia.

Both events took me as fully outside myself as I can remember happening before or since. Both times I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak.

Both events had me watching for another person’s breath – again, completely helpless to affect anything happening mere feet away from me, but still hoping that the next one (or the first one) would come. And, in the case of both, an eternity slipped by in the seconds between or before breaths – seconds filled with silences that could themselves fill oceans.

Or maybe those silences were just in my head. Because neither event was actually silent.

We all know about births – the blood, the screaming, the crying, the violence. But unless it’s a death that specifically stems from an accident or violent act, then the death you’re likely to have witnessed is a slow fade rather than an explosive event. Each rapid breath takes longer and longer for the dying to draw, each wait for the next becomes more difficult to bear until…there’s not another one.

Just like the space between the emergence of a head and the beginning of a life is an excruciating few seconds, so too is the understanding that the breath you just heard and saw was, in fact, the last one.

And, in the spaces between those first and last breaths, there’s life – and for those watching, it’s one of the only opportunities we have to lose ourselves, truly, in the spaces between the end of one life  and the beginning of another.

The question I’ve never been able to answer is “Am I lucky to have seen both?” I don’t know about “lucky,” but I’ve heard that we get what we deserve, that we only get what we can handle, you can’t always get what you want and that this is what you get when you mess with us.

At this point, I’m ready to believe all or none of those things.



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