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The Color Wheel of Grief

hairKatie Devine’s writing has appeared on sites including Huffington Post, Role Reboot, XO Jane, Medium, The Manifest-Station and Thought Catalog. She chronicles her travels and life experiences on her blog, Confessions of An Imperfect Life. When she’s not on a plane, you can find Katie taking endless pictures of sunsets at home in Santa Monica, CA. Connect with her on FB, Instagram or Twitter.

 

 

Yellow: What two florists suggested we add to the arrangement of blue hydrangeas for your service, to which I replied, decisively, “no, just blue.” I don’t recall you having a particular affinity for yellow, so I deferred to my own preference instead.

Yellow-Orange: The sunset we tried to glimpse from our table at Geoffrey’s in Malibu, where we celebrated your last birthday in April. The sun sank behind the bend in the coastline, preventing our direct view, but we were treated to a fiery golden and then pink sky while we dined on scallops and swordfish. Did you know that 65 would be your last birthday?

Orange: We both marveled at it, on a trip home from Newark Airport, or a drive to dinner in Los Angeles. Who would buy an orange car? We chuckled and shook our heads at the absurdity.

Orange-Red: The Polo sweatshirt of yours that I wore for two weeks, smelling the crook of the elbow every day for you, until one morning I woke up and it was gone. Your scent slipped away during the night without a goodbye, much like you did.

Red: One half of the bezel on the watch you gifted me years ago, and then again weeks ago. “Pepsi” colors, red and blue. I didn’t think it matched enough of my clothing so I returned it to you then. It matches everything now.

Red-Purple: Your ears, when they let me into your hospital room to see you. You looked like you were sleeping, eyes closed and lips parted just slightly. You were still warm. When I laid my body across your chest, it felt like I was hugging the real you. Only your ears, their reddish-purple deepening as I watched you, clung to you, told me the truth. They are the color I imagine the blood clots to be.

Purple: Nothing. I can make no association with you and purple. Which feels sadder than anything else I could have conjured. How could there be any shade without you in it?

Pearls of Colors by Andrea - Flickr Creative Commons

Blue-Purple: The color of the ceramic butterfly I brought back from Guatemala for you, because blue was your favorite color, and purple was Kelly’s. She loved butterflies, enough to get a tattoo of one, which upset you and made me vow never to show you my own tattoo. You wouldn’t even learn of its existence until I was 25, and you never asked to see it. I always wondered if the Yankees tattoo Kelly got on her foot upset you as well—or if that one was okay because she was 30 and well, it was the Yankees. I wish I had asked you.

Blue: Your eyes, your watch faces, your color. I will never see blue and not picture you, sapphire eyes twinkling in your royal blue Tommy Bahama sweater, with your cobalt-faced IWC. Someday it will make me smile again.

Blue-Green: The water in one of my favorite pictures of us. You couldn’t swim, but are holding me in a pool, my arms wrapped loosely around your neck, the dad who made me feel safe even when he didn’t feel that way. You were 32 to my 3, and looked like John John, the younger Kennedy.

Green: Your Acura Legend, the one you put too many miles on so I had to drive it to high school while you took my black ‘91 Camry to work. We talked about it last month. You were supposed to help me choose the first car I would buy. We talked about that Acura, and how you would feel safe with me in one. You didn’t want me to get a Volkswagen, so I won’t. You understood why I couldn’t drive Kelly’s car. You couldn’t either, you admitted. We were haunted by different ghosts in the same blue Honda Civic.

Yellow Green: The grass in the Dog Park, or what I imagine it will look like when I venture back there in April. It will be just after your 66th birthday, and Grandma’s 99th birthday, and Kelly’s 33rd birthday. I can’t understand how you are all linked by my once lucky number, and how you are now linked by death. I can’t fathom how you could all be gone.

But it’s the colors that don’t appear on the wheel that are most with me:

Black: The cashmere sweater I wore, first to Kelly’s service, and then to yours. It has tasteful rhinestone decals around the neck. It was warm, though I didn’t feel any warmth in it. You both died in the winter; a thoughtful solution to that fashion challenge. I will never wear it again.

Grey: Your thick, lovely hair, brushed up in my last image of you. The dirty snow piled up on the side of the road when I visited your house that is no longer your house, that will always be your house, for the first time after your death. The charcoal scarf I am wearing in our last picture together. The pale fog of grief that I now see in every direction.

Brown: The wooden, Shaker-style box that holds your ashes. I don’t know what color your actual ashes are—I was too afraid to look. Your younger daughter is also in a matte brown box, hers plastic and TSA-compliant for the trip home from California in your carry-on. That container is now housed in a larger, yellow wood one, with flowers and butterflies painted on it, but I can’t forget when you took me up to your guest room to see it for the first time, and how you held me as we sobbed and I caressed that ugly brown plastic. Having you in a box in the same room as the box Kelly was in might be the most unbearable part of all of this.

Gold: Your dogs. My “brothers.” Moose looked sad, but then he always did. It was Brody’s unusually mournful eyes that told me he knew.

White: The color of the doctor’s coat, the one who asked how we were related to Mr. Kevin Devine, and then told us you had “expired.” For a split second my brain froze, wondering what that meant, even though I saw the look on the nurse’s face before he started speaking, saw how she couldn’t meet my eyes. In that same split second, before I started screaming, I hated this doctor, not because he couldn’t save you, but because he used a word like expired to describe you, like you were milk that was forgotten and spoiled in the refrigerator, rather than what you were: the most important man in my life.

 

 

 

Photo credit: “Pearls of Colors” by Andrea is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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6 Comments on The Color Wheel of Grief

  1. Tears. Absolutely gorgeous. And I’m so sorry, Katie.

  2. I am so sorry for all of the losses you’ve experienced. This was beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your grief in a way that others can see beauty in and appreciate.

  3. That was so beautifully written that it brings tears to my eyes. You have a special gift.

  4. A spectacularly poignant remembrance, Kelly – I am so, so sorry for the incalculable losses you have suffered this winter. I wish I could do something more than say that, and send you my love across the internet. xox

  5. Too much loss! So much love! Wishing you moments when these memories of favorite moments together bring you comfort. My deepest sympathies for these unimaginable tragic deaths of your beloveds.

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