Abigail Thomas is an author of fiction, non-fiction, memoir, and poetry. Her work has appeared in too many publications to mention, but significantly two of her memoirs deal with two of her husbands dying. In Safekeeping: True Stories from a Life, one vignette is about the death of her second husband, who was her best friend. A Three Dog Life is the account of what happens when her third husband is hit by a car and essentially loses his identity and, eventually, his life.
Thomas knows about loss from the inside out. Yet she has not been abandoned by a wry, quirky sense of humor that pokes at our humanity and says, “What about this perspective? Try this on. Don’t take yourself so seriously.”
“The Dying Room” is a short piece of personal narrative, published in River Teeth’s Beautiful Things. It is a superb example of how diversely and surprisingly dying and death can occur for us. Writing can do that–it can delve into the human experience in uncommon, atypical ways. It opens the possibility that we might not need to take ourselves so seriously, even when the dreaded worst thing happens…
The Dying Room
When he woke again he questioned how had he come to be here in this terrible room, who had allowed it to happen? And he raged at his wife for betraying him, and when in her pained look he could read nothing he understood, I should never have trusted you, he said and went on that way like a bath overflowing until his voice softened, I loved you passionately, always, and let his head fall back on the pillow. She wasn’t his wife anymore, but she would always be his wife. She took his hand when he startled, his eyes rolling like a wild horse, and he wanted to say she need not trouble herself, as it was only a moment and gone, part of the hard work of it. The body that held him to the bed was loosening its hold and he scattered and filled the room. I love you, his not wife whispered as he died, and the family woke and rose and stood about the bed, weeping, while over by the window a glass of water fell to the floor, which was goodbye and goddamn and he knew she knew, because she smiled.