I see it still: how your face looked in death. I remember what that car did, how your jawbone was exposed, your eye bulging out of your face, after they drove away. I remember waking up one morning to your smile, and hours later you were gone. I remember how swiftly life can change.
This morning I woke in tears, at the nightmare that this could happen to my second child, as it did to you. In the vision, her head was completely gone, the same road awash with a second child’s blood. You, my beautiful, were the light of my life, but two and a half years after you died, it is the fear, not the grief, that hits hardest. I wasn’t there to save you, and I know now that I can never be sure I will be, for your sister.
The early morning light slanted into my bedroom and onto her face as I woke today. I made myself smile at her, kiss her, hide the fear and the agony that trembled through me like ripples from the heavy stone of truth. I made myself see that she is still here, that I haven’t lost her yet, and that maybe I never will. But trust in such things is difficult, now. I remember you on that patch of road, see your antics in hers, your vulnerability in hers. I’ve replayed the scene of your death so many times, so that in my mind I was there when it happened, I was able to run out after you and stop that car, and I was able to save you.
It would be so easy to smother your sister: to try to protect her as I couldn’t protect you, to shield her forever from a car that might never come, to hold on too tightly until she cannot breathe in the sweet air of life freely, just to ease my broken heart. But I can’t let that happen. These years later, I so often glimpse your shadow in the periphery of my vision, but there I keep you, just out of her sight and barely in mine, so that your ghost doesn’t haunt her too, and doesn’t part another child from the mother she needs.
River Kozhar is the nonfiction nom-de-plume of an author with prose and poetry published in 50+ different literary magazines. Her nonfiction focuses primarily on privilege, otherness, and trauma, and is upcoming in “Best Canadian Essays 2021”. She is a young (disabled) retiree and a social justice advocate, and she lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Website: http://riverkozharauthor.wordpress.com/