I was making pork chops when my aunt Mavis called around 11:30. Had Bruce gone to town? she asked through my mother who’d answered the phone.
I’m not sure, I said, and I opened the front door and called out his name. Silence. I saw a train stopped on the tracks a half mile from our farm and remembered hearing a whistle blowing longer than usual about an hour earlier.
Something felt very wrong. I went back inside. Mavis heard there’d been an accident – a train and a tractor. She heard it involved Bruce.
Call David, I told Mom, my mouth too dry to speak. David was our pastor, friend and a member of the volunteer ambulance crew.
David’s wife, Kathy, answered. Was there an accident? What happened to Bruce? Mom’s face went sheet white. Thank you, she said.
“Lynnie,” her voice trembled. “Bruce is dead. David is on his way here.”
As I write these words, my stomach has turned to mush, much the same way it did 24 years ago today. My heart in my stomach, the dread, the yuck, the panic – I can recall it all just by remembering my mother’s face – eyes wide in panic, her hands prayer-like covering over her mouth and nose – and hearing her voice deep and shallow, the voice that only comes out when she must recite bad news.
I walked into the kitchen for a glass of water. We had a tall curved tap from the water purifier in the basement and I turned it on. I turned off the pork chops. I looked outside and contemplated my future. A widow for two minutes and already I was planning my future. I realize now I was afraid. I had no security. It lay dead on the tracks a few hundreds yards from home.
I met David at the door. Bruce’s brother John was with him. David is a tall man. They’d both been crying.
Is it true? I asked.
Yes, David said. Bruce is gone.
He gathered me in his arms and I couldn’t breath and I couldn’t think and I couldn’t cry. I wanted to throw up.
The train hit Bruce’s tractor, John said. I imagined his body in pieces on the track.
Can I see him? I asked.
No, David said. John identified the body.
That’s my job, I argued.
But I was dismissed, the first of many dismisses in the following days.
They didn’t tell me what his body looked like and I didn’t ask, not until a few weeks later.
We sat down on the couch and I asked Mom to retrieve my wedding ring from my jewelry box. I’d taken it off six weeks earlier when my fingers swelled in the final weeks of my pregnancy. It was hard to get on, but I managed.
Do you want something to drink?
You’ll need to keep up your strength to nurse, someone said.
I know, I said. But I didn’t eat for another day.
This is all I can write right now. I need to go outside and feel some sunshine for awhile. I will relive this day in pieces, not all at once.