Six Obits

by Victoria Chang

Victoria Chang

Friendships died June 24,
2009, once beloved but not
consistently beloved. The mirror
won the battle. I am now
imprisoned in the mirror. All my
sclves spread out like a deck of
cards. Tts true, the grieving
speak a different language. I am
separated from my friends by
gauze. I will drive myself to my
own house for the party. I will
make small talk with myself,
spill a drink on mysclf. When
it's over, I will drive myself back
to my own house. My
conversations with other parents
about children pass me on the
staircase on the way up and
repeat on the way down. Before
my mother's death, I sat
anywhere. Now I look for the
image of the empty chair near the
image of the empty table. An
image is a kind of distance. An
image of me sits down.
Depression is a glove over the
heart. Depression is an image of
a glove over the image of a heart.

Optimism-died on August 3,
2015, a slow death into a
pavement. At what point does a
raindrop accept its falling? The
moment the cloud begins to
buckle under it or the moment the
ground pierces it and breaks its
shape? In December, my mother
had her helper prepare a Chinese
hot pot feast. My mother said it
would probably be her last
Christmas. I laughed at her. She
yelled at my father all night. I put
a fish ball in my mouth. My
optimism covered the whole ball
as if the fish had never died, had
never been gutted and rolled into
a humiliating shape. To
acknowledge death is to
acknowledge that we must take
another shape.

Affection-died on November
12, 1978, the last picture I see of
my mother's arms around me. At
the funeral, I never touched my
sister. When the room was
finally empty, she sat in the front
row with her spouse. I watched
his arm lift and fall onto her
shoulder. When my spouse's
parents died, both times, he burst
into tears, inextinguishable tears
that quickly extinguished. The
first time, he hugged me and not
his family. The second time, he
hugged no one. When the nurse
called, she said, ?'m sorry, but
your mother passed away this
morning. When I told my
children, the three of us hugged
in a circle, burst into tears. As if
the tears were already there
crying on their own and we, the
newly bereaved, exploded into
them. In the returning out of the
tears, the first person I dissolves
a little more each time.

Clothes-died on August 10,
2015. We stuffed them into lawn
bags to donate. Shirt after shirt,
button-down after button-down,
dress after dress, limb after limb.
A few leapt out to me like the
flame froma nightmare, the kind
of flame that almost seems
human in its gestures. I kept
those. I kept the hundreds of
pencils. I am writing with a
pencil from my mother's drawer.
It says Detroit Public Schools,
where she taught. Each sentence
fights me. Once we rolled her
downstairs, played croquet and
putt putt golf. She sat and
watched, her vacant eyes not
seeing anything we saw. As if
she were looking beyond us,
beyond the sun. The days of
August already made a certain
way that she could see and we
couldn't. I left her in the sun too
long. One child doing cartwheels
on the grass as my mother looked
on, wearing the white blouse
with the small pink flowers
swirling in a pattern. I kept the
stare. I kept the flowers. And I
donated the vacant shirt.

The Occan-died on August 21,
2017, when I didn't jump from
the ship. Instead, I dragged the
door shut and pulled up the safety
latch. The water in my body
wanted to pour into the ocean and
I imagined myself being washed
by the water, my body separatings
into the droplets it always was. II
could feel the salt on my neck for
days. A woman I once knew
leapt out of a window to her
death. The difference was she
being chased. Some
scientists say the ocean is
warming. Some say the ocean
has hypoxic areas with no
oxygen. Even Water has
hierarchy. A child's death is
worse than a woman's death
unless the woman who died was
the mother of the child and the
only parent. If the woman who
died was the mother of an adult,
it is merely a part of life. If both
mother and daughter die
together, it is a shame. If a whole
family dies, it is a catastrophe.
What will we call a whole
ocean's death? Peace.

Last updated February 19, 2023