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When the phone rang I was

in the kitchen washing

a dead woman's crystal

wine glasses, goblets and

bowls made in Ireland,

Waterford, while both sons

were discussing worlds

and portals, something

about extra lives.

My favorite male cousin in

his familiar Long Island accent

asked if I was in the middle

of anything and I said no

then he calmly told me

his brother had died

describing the awfulness

that he alone witnessed

at five in the morning

I listened more than spoke

any words until he paused so

weary, the last thing left

hanging there, at least

he's no longer suffering

then speaking from my heart

to his because he did

the same for me and more

when my husband died

This is family at its best,

the years apart don't exist

the memories of good times

the shared crazy childhood

stories of sunburnt beach days

spaghetti fights and the

stupid grudges our parents

held unto death for what?

we even laughed small

(though it was not enough)

about my terse message on

the answering machine,

very effective for unwanted

callers but not sad cousins

who need comfort, who need

to breathe before the

burial in Farmingdale

near grandparents and my

older sister who never lived

I spent the remainder of the

afternoon and evening moving

logs and walking before dusk

thinking I cannot begin to

imagine losing either brother

both so far away in body and

mind, at least my cousin was

present, his brother not alone

For don't we all feel

diminished by death?

especially when it's unexpected

or my last memory of him was

falling on slick marble floors

after his father's funeral and

as others helped him I was handed

the folded service flag which

sits triangular next to my father's

My cousin was large but

weakened by disease that

slowly robbed him of peace

of joy, of creativity, of

mobility, then life itself

Today I'll light a candle

at the chapel even though

he was not a believer

some of us are and especially

in times of grief we need

a wooden match, the smell of

wax, the sand to extinguish

the brief light that flares

in memory of a good man who

shared his love of theater

with those less fortunate

whose smile was quick

whose eyes held merriment

Oh, to imagine my very own

private Broadway dimming

their lights for his star

his passing on the way to

a Heaven where his father

and mine await, where God

hands out his favorite cigars

where he no longer needs leg

braces nor pain, nor fear.


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