Oh dear lord, this post is going to require just the right music…. wait here while I find it. Okayyyyyyy “Workingman’s Dead” it is. It was Brian’s favorite Grateful Dead album. While I love most of them, “American Beauty” is my favorite. That said, Brian was a working man. Brian is dead. (Jesus Christ, who the fuck is this Brian we keep talking about who is dead? Surely not MY Brian!?!)
I hate the mail. I hate it. I just never know what will arrive. Sometimes it is wonderful and lovely notes and occasionally contributions to theBrian Kohl Family Memorial Relief Fund, and I love those days so much because, even after 3 months, I still need loving arms around me at all times. Other times, however, it’s bullshit that makes me want to punch out windows and bash heads through walls. I still get obituaries in the mail (unsolicited,) last week I got an offer for Life Insurance on Brian 3 months after he died without any, and almost every day I get something from Cabella’s, Bass Pro, Harbor Freight, North American Fishing Association, and other random flotsam and jetsam. Yesterday, the mail brought me a Missouri Conservation magazine, a Bass Pro flier, a Menard’s ad, and a large manilla envelope from the Medical Examiner’s Office.
I requested the final report from the M.E. I wanted the autopsy report, the toxicology report, I wanted it all. On December 26th, at 3pm, I spoke to the woman who cut my husband up and looked at parts of him that no other human had ever seen. I requested the report, told her I wanted everything but pictures. I wasn’t sure if I would read it when I got it, but I have learned how this process works and, unfortunately, I know how slow and convoluted it is. If I didn’t request it immediately, I’d never get it. As it was, it took more than 2 months after the request for me to get the report. It showed up innocuously in my mailbox and, before I could think too hard about it, I closed myself off in Brian’s man-cave, Shakedown Street, and tore it open.
7 pages. Type face, signatures, dates, case numbers. ”Brian D. Kohl, Age 38 years” on each and every one.
In 2000, our first son was born. He was in what is called an “acynclitic position” and was unable to be born vaginally, so he was born via cesarean section. Brian was right there with me the entire time. In the years since that surgery, Brian would often remark to me that he saw a part of me that I would never ever see. You must understand, in a c-section, the surgeon pulls the uterus completely out of the body and lays it upon the mother’s abdomen to inspect it for tears and other abnormalities. Brian saw the whole thing. While it sounds strange, there was an incredible intimacy in that. He saw my womb, he saw my insides, he saw things I’ll never see… and it made us closer. I often wondered if I would ever have that experience. Would I ever know or see more of him than he ever would?
I got my answer yesterday with one hasty tear of a manilla envelope.
I know now more than any one else will ever know. I read the contents and immediately vomited. It’s so hard to read the details of your soul mate, your beloved, your entire everything reduced down to measurements and weights. It’s hard to read words like “remains of brown hair,” “singed eyebrows,” “xx% burned and sloughing skin.” I will never share those details with anyone. Ever. I know how much his heart weighed and what exact color it was and whether it was dull or glossy and full. I know everything about his liver, his lungs, his intestines, his spleen. I know how much his brain weighed. I know the extent of facial hair he had, I know the condition of his palms and the soles of his feet. I know it all. I know it all. I know it all.
Brian was a HUGE believer of evolution (honestly, how can you not be?) Anyway, physicians have been saying for some time that more and more people are being born without an appendix. I believe in evolution completely, just like Brian. Imagine the smile – the ONLY smile – that crossed my face as I read the report and learned that Brian had been born WITHOUT AN APPENDIX. As of this writing, the statistics say that 1 in 100,000 people are born without one. Brian was born in 1974. As always, that amazing man was ahead of the evolutionary curve.
7 pages of text and, other than the appendix deal, there is one other thing that sticks out to me that I will discuss. Repeatedly, organ system by organ system, the words, “unremarkable” are repeated. ”Larger and smaller intestines are unremarkable.” ”Soot present in nasal passages, otherwise unremarkable.” “Bone structure and health absolutely unremarkable.” Let me tell you, there was NOTHING about Brian that was unremarkable. I know that they have to use those words, I get it, but it made me laugh and flip the bird. Many of you knew Brian. Let me ask you – was anything about him unremarkable? Yeah, I thought not. Yet, unremarkable it is.
After the two hours of vomiting and emotional distress, some peace came to me. I felt closer to Brian last night than I have in a long time. I realized that, just as he saw a part of me that I never will see, I have seen parts of him that he never saw. It felt like I was baring witness to him, like I was relieving him of the weight of carrying it all on his own. I know. I know, Brian, I know, and you can lessen your load now. I will carry it with you.
After several hours of trying to hold it together, I took a hot bath, told my kids goodnight, and climbed into bed myself.
I asked him to come to me last night as I fell asleep. He has never failed to come to me when I have the clarity to ask. He came to me in a way that he usually comes. The dreams are very similar. We are rushed with each other, passionate, all hands and tongues and body parts and sweat and love. Usually it is because we’re “not supposed” to be together in that way. Either there is a kid in the next room waiting to barge in, or we’re at a party, or we’re in public. It’s always heated and quick and it’s always like we’re getting away with something. And it’s always sooooo real. I wake up with the taste of him on my tongue. I think we are getting away with something. I think, in those moments, we are both crossing the veil and finding a way to reach each other and make love. Deeply personal, deeply intimate.
I woke this morning to find my exfoliating gloves in the middle of the bathtub. I had thrown them in the sink last night when I took my bath and thought nothing of just throwing them in the tub when I got out. I looked at them and gasped. Another “unremarkable” intimacy. Look at these gloves. They are UNTOUCHED – this is how they landed when I threw them into the tub. The glove on the right is the ASL sign for “I Love You.” The glove on the left is the hand sign the boys invented to signal Brian. They just landed like that.
To anyone else, unremarkable. To me, incredibly intimate.
Love never dies.