Eulogy by Taylor Kirby

Eulogy

My grandmother graduated from hospice care before, which was not a euphemism for death or a bill of good health. Her declination stalled, but it would not reverse. She advanced from dying actively to dying too slowly to frame within a timeline. I told the nurse to reconsider his use of the word graduation.

*

Her eulogy isn’t coming together easily. I’m frustrated with how the tumor has unmoored her personality, how she drifts in a new direction every day. I can’t navigate my way to the essence of who she was, not linearly. And I want to tell the story clean.

*

I experience her now in past tense, as a sequence of –eds. She wanted. She loved. She lived. While she eats, I try to anticipate the shape this memory will have in ten years. It’s easy to think of her from that faraway place now that I’m in the practice of it.

*

The veterinarian showed me how dehydrated my dying kitten was by grabbing his scruff. “See how long it takes to unbunch?” she said. I dream his skin comes away in my fist when I perform the test at home, a clot of meat and fur, and I know he isn’t drinking enough water.

*

I find comfort in the hard edges of the past participle. There’s a finality to its consonants, an implied period where the –s of present tense would place a comma. It gives the end a rhythm.

*

Nobody applauded for me when I read at my grandfather’s funeral. I know better now. They needed a reason to understand my loss, and I didn’t have enough time to find it. If only he had been able to graduate.

*

The tumor tells her when to sleep and when she isn’t hungry for the dinner that took two hours to prepare. It makes her wait for my grandfather to come back in from the garage. It does these things as if it can speak with her. They call it a parasite, but there are days where it treats her more like a friend. It makes sure she’s never alone.

*

These things — the processions and the speeches and the portraits crowned with flowers — are lies for the living. That’s my angle, how I’ll hook the audience: We’ll learn to miss you, too. But my mother won’t want me to lie. “If they knew how she really was,” she tells me when the phone rings, “they wouldn’t feel guilty about not calling her until now.”

*

I bring my kitten home in a paper handle bag. The communal cremation — a pile of pets reduced to a pile of ashes that were disposed of in a way the doctor wouldn’t explain — seemed insensitive, but now I don’t know which shelf to put the bag on.

*

Eulogy. High praise. It’s limiting. A few suggestions: Narratology. Martyrology. Medaxology.

*

Shouldn’t the tumor be a character? It’s been rearranging her brain mass for long enough, playing her moods like orchestral strings. The doctors think its infancy could have been as long as five years ago. And it’s dying, too.

*

Her breathing throws silver spackling onto her oxygen mask. She laughs at something on the news, and I laugh with her, but really all I can hear is the staccato report of her heart monitor. This moment won’t make the final draft. People don’t want to be reminded of what’s to come.

*

When I put the kitten down, the vet inverted his name and mine, so she explained how she was going to place a catheter in my arm before giving me two fatal dose of anesthesia. More if I needed it. I didn’t correct her.

*

My grandmother’s bedsores worsen, exit wounds of what’s left of her life. She used to tell me her age spots were a punishment, a sign that she had done wrong by God. I think it’s the shame of the sores that might end up killing her.

*

She is cruel today. The nurse tells us it’s the cancer talking even though we all know she’s lucid. When the tumor speaks, it does so kindly.

*

It passes in April, a sprawling two inches at the time of death. I praise it.

 

Eulogy

 

Born in Denver, Colorado, Taylor Kirby is an MFA candidate at Texas State University outside of Austin, Texas. This is her first publication.

 

(Next: A Game in Three Acts by Kamil Ahsan)

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Image (modified): Käthe Kollwitz Public Domain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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