They say that caring for the dead body of a loved one is the most intimate act a human can perform.
I drove home in silence today. It was two hours of after-airport surreality, the shotgun seat and the back seat now oddly silent after having been so full for the last ten days. I came home to the smell of bacon frying, the love of a man wafting to greet me at the front door, trying to fill the holes in my heart left vacant by the two who now occupied seats 27A and 27B headed back to humid-hell Pennsylvania after ten days of forest trails and waterside sunsets.
Later, my foot slipped on the kitchen floor. Tonight’s repast, a love offering to the gods of change, left bacon waftings on the floor. Argument ensued, first over the presence of bacon grease on the floor (I could feel my feet sliding baconly; he protested his innocence), and then over its disposition. I said no to the mop wielded by a repentant man. No to the mop. No.
It wasn’t until later, when I slowly and deliberately filled my bucket halfway with hot water and a squirt of soap, got the mop and began to erase the underfoot ghoststeps of two of my children from our past ten days, only ten small days out of the past 365, that I realized what had happened.
It is an act of love, caring for the dead. Sacred. Holy.
The wet floor became shiny, clean. I no longer saw faint footprints on the wood.
It was my duty, my love, to make my home wholly mine again, to take away the bits of Nathaniel and Serena still lingering here. Those bits belong with them in Pennsylvania, to help them feel whole. My duty, my act of love. Mine. No to the man. No to the mop.
The floor is dry now except for a spot or two here and there. The table that holds my paints casts a reflection in the gleaming wood. No more ghostprints. It was my job, my love. Now my two are whole, joined by the waftings they left here and the bits of forest and bayside they collected. Whole, and my home echoes a little for its loss.