Goodbye in 75 Lines

Brennen McDowell


With the kiss of a coffin I said goodbye to the most beautiful person I have ever known.


Never again drink a pot of coffee and talk with him.


To answer a phone and hear him cheer “Brenino.”


Or to see his smile.


I can never explain to you how he was. He had the talent of exhibiting his complete happiness merely in his way of picking up a fork. And my dumb words cannot do him anything near justice.


He got up in the morning, and made a pot of black coffee. Cooked breakfest for himself, and then got going. He drove a bread truck. He spent his life behind a car, delivering baguettes and croissants. And he was the greatest ever. His name was Franco.


The day before my uncle died was Thanksgiving, and he came over to our house. It was the last time I saw him. He asked if I had done any writing lately or taken any pictures, and went a step further, and asked if I could show them to him. He was the last of the family to go out the door, because he couldn’t stop saying goodbye. He was still waving when he got inside the car.


Once, at his son’s wedding, I met his nephew Vincenzo, who is an elevator repairman in Italy. When I saw Franco talking to his nephew, in the gently paternal way he talked to him, I saw the most clear, honest communication of love I have ever seen. Franco loved Vincenzo, and I could tell just by Franco’s manner of talking to him. It was beautiful. After I stepped away from Franco’s casket I walked over to Vincenzo, who had flown in from Italy for the funeral, and we hugged for five minutes.


For him, it was easy. Every person deserved to be treated good. Everyone was his friend, because he saw that everyone was good. His love had no demands or expectations.


That was all there was to it for him, in this life that we all get so mangled up in. If everyone was like him, we wouldn’t need heaven, because he way he saw it, life isn’t lifelong, it’s secondlong, and he basked in every second.


The day of his son’s wedding he and I drove to the reception. He told me he had studied Shakespeare in college, and talked about his plays. Then I remember standing next to him, while his son was having his first dance with his wife, and feeling proud of being next time while he had that moment. The times I thought we had left to have are vanished.


The night he died we picked up his daughter in Chicago. She was having a night out with her friends, and she still didn’t know what had happened, but she knew something was wrong. We picked her up in front of the Art Institute. My mother, sisters, and I got out of the car, and surrounded her in hugs. Her screams echoed down the corridor of skyscrapers.


What hurts more than anything for me is how he left. He was helping out at an Italian Deli and said he had to use the bathroom. He was gone for a half hour when someone went to check on him. He responded that he was alright and would be out soon. Ten minutes later they checked on him again and he didn’t respond this time. I just want to know why he didn’t say that anything was wrong the first time. He must have been in so much pain, and he said nothing. I just don’t understand.


I don’t think there’s anything our logic can understand about death. It never makes sense and never will.

And for me the one person I knew who really had it figured out, had found perfect contentness, and was living to the fullest, has turned out to be mortal.


I’m sorry I failed so miserably in explaining who he was. I just can’t, it’s impossible. But I’m sure we all have felt loses like this and have felt failure when trying to explain “what they were like.” They were like them, they were the only one ever like them. But when we think of the way they used to be, and the times you had together, and we smile thinking of they who were, they live again. Only the forgotten dead are gone, never forget those who’ve left you and they won’t have.


All I have is the optimism I inherited from him. The saddest thing about tears is that they taste kinda good.


Printed courtesy of The Daily Vidette


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