Breathing was living in the moment. Ms Keogh and I
strived for living in the moment and we were good at
it. The preciousness of time, this we understood. Ms
Keogh, my cherished companion, had chronic renal
failure her entire adult life. When she died, I
wanted to be with her in the past or dead in the
future, just not alive in the moment. I ceased to
I stopped breathing, but the medulla persisted with
instructions to the lungs. I had nothing to do with
it. I didnít care about breathing. I would have
gratefully welcomed the medulla abandoning the
chore. I was unwilling to pay it any attention. If I
did, I hated it for its stubbornness.
How long was it before I could breathe again? Take a
breath, Mr Bentzman. Breathe deeply. Listen to the
air being drawn through the nostrils. Feel the lungs
expanding, slow and deep. Comfortably. Then exhale.
Completely. Donít be in a hurry. Repeat. Repeat.
Repeat. Then listen to your surroundings, Mr
Bentzman. What can you hear? What is it you can
smell? This is where you are, right here! This is
when you are, right now!
It used to be I could watch Ms Keogh cooking,
painting, occupied with a mystery book or television
program, and this was everything I could want. When
she smiled at me, it was all that could be achieved.
I saw her sleeping, the tides of her breathing, the
pulse in her neck. I could lean into the nape of her
neck and take up the scent of her existence. This is
the purpose for which I evolved, the alignment of
neurons programmed for relationships, to comfort and
communicate with her as she with me. We are social
creatures. This was the most happiness I could
expect from the mystery of existence.
How long was it after she died before I could
breathe again? There hasnít been a day I havenít
wept missing her. There are episodes when my guard
is down and I sob to the point of gasping. Never in
company. Then I will quash it. There is no purpose
in causing others to feel uncomfortable and
helpless. It is permitted only when I am alone.
There must be some need for it that explains why the
whole body succumbs.
Again, I ask, how long was it before I could breathe
again? My shoddy memory thinks it was months, or at
least weeks, before I could smile for any reason. I
It was on a city bus. I donít remember why, but I
think I was riding it to Albany Road. Despite the
lush vitality of the city all about, my soul was in
solitary confinement and knew only that it was
alone. It was untouched by what mattered in life and
convinced it must now remain that way. Nothing could
help me, or so I believed. But the little girl in
the seat in front of me proved this wrong.
This little girl insisted on kneeling backward on
her seat in the bus and peering at me over the
seatís back, grinning. I masked my sorrow with a
fake smile. She wouldnít let up, doe-eyed and
verging on a laugh. It pierced my grief. It beckoned
to something still inside me, breaching my solitude.
Here was a child, most of her life still to come,
thousands of dramas and pleasures yet unrealized,
and she innocently contradicted my disposition. This
cherub in dark bangs would not relinquish her
cheerfulness, insisting on having me re-engage with
living. I began to breathe, my smile becoming
genuine. I could not defy her.
I took out my flip phone and snapped a couple of
pictures, a cheap phone producing lousy photographs.
Moments ago, I was astonished when examining those
photographs again, to see it was neither months, nor
weeks, after Ms Keoghís death. They were dated the
day after. Could it really have been that soon? It
was not the end of my grieving, to be sure. That has
yet to end. There is not enough time to heal. Still,
it was a glimpse that there was yet purpose in me
and reason to keep breathing.
Mr Bentzman will continue to report here regularly about
the events and concerns of his life. If you've any
comments or suggestions, he would be pleased to hear from you.
You can find his
several books at www.Bentzman.com.
Inside Me, his second collection of
essays, is now available to purchase.