First Night

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The lamp above our kitchen table lit a corner of the world I knew. The light

was warm and not so bright as not to show the dark around it. I stood in the dark outside

the open door, the way we all stood back when someone lit a fire in the hearth,

although I didn’t think of that then. There in the light, on our mother’s lap, seized with the knowledge

he could not un-know—the box he’d seen them lower, flowers and all; the Easter lilies

he’d picked from the neighbors’ perennial bed; and Nate inside the box, a tumor in his brain—

my brother sobbed, writhing in her embrace then giving in, collapsing at her chest,

his words combined and interrupted with the uncontrollable first sounding of grief—

no, fear: “But I don’t want to die!” She held him, kissed the top of his head. And then she murmured

something in his ear. It was the right thing for her to say.