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In Memoriam: John Rossetti 12/58 - 2/98

Betty Wald

Grief defies consolation, despite our best efforts.

February 1998

This is what my daughter Kathleen wants. She wants a guarantee she will see John in heaven. It will help her get through these days.

“I just want to know I will see him again,” she tells me.

I hesitate, wanting to give her the guarantee she asks for and wanting to be honest. I mumble a few words.

“Don’t give me any of that collective unconscious shit,” she says. “And none of that fuzzy New Age stuff.”

What she really wants is John in the flesh, John with all his idiosyncrasies. The John who knew the name of every band from the ’60’s, every fact of Frank Sinatra’s life, who loved the Orioles, who ate two Big Macs at lunch so he could bring back a toy for each of his little girls, Allie and Maggie.

“What’s the point of having all these life experiences, developing into the unique person you are only to have it all wiped away forever,” Kathleen cries.

She is trying to piece him together. She rummages through drawers to find traces of him, the ticket stubs from concerts he saved, the birthday card he sent on her 40th birthday, filled with words of love, the Valentine letter he wrote to 7-year-old Allie. He died before he finished Maggie’s. She touches his clothes, slips her hands into pockets. In his leather jacket, finds the sunglasses he loved.

I come across a picture of John wearing them and give it to her. He so rarely appears in photos; he was the one always taking the pictures. My husband Arnold finds one of him holding a 9mm camera, recording some family event. I look at him, just a boy, a boy with a shock of curly black hair, and see again Kathleen stroking it as we stand by his cubicle in the ER that awful day, whispering to him as if he were just sleeping, “I love you, Oh I love you, I love you.”

“John is with God.” The priest who comes to see us pats Kathleen’s hand. She snatches it away. “I don’t want him with God, I want him here with me,” she cries out.

The Boy Scouts and their dads come on Saturday and clean Kathleen’s yard, friends drop by each day, bringing food and hugs, her sister Marybeth stays over, her brother Tom comes by Sunday to put locks on the kitchen door. “So many people love you, Kath,” I tell her. Never the right thing.

“It doesn’t matter,” she says, “when the one person in the whole world I loved the most I can never see again.”


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