I’ve admired the paintings of Molly Murphy for a long time. I’ve bought small ones for gifts and splurged on a large one for my living room. But I’m not going to share her visual art today (although you should at least check out her website to see it), I want to share her words.
I want to share this piece because I think it’s beautiful and poignant and it has stuck in my mind ever since I read it on Facebook. I also want more people to remember her friend Shannon, a woman who I never met.
Shannon Bought That
by Molly Murphy
Yesterday, I stood with the refrigerator door gaping open, staring at the contents until Basil said she wanted some milk. I looked at the glass jug with its remaining one inch of milk at the bottom.
“Shannon brought that,” she said.
“Yes, Shannon brought that.”
I was already thinking it while staring at an orange and two apples resting comfortably in the crisper. “Shannon brought you that fruit too, kiddo.” I emptied the remaining milk from its cold container into Basil’s cup as she repeated, “Shannon brought that for me.” Because that’s what a two year-old does, they repeat things. A lot. Then, “I bring milk to Shannon’s house?” I looked at Basil for a second, wholly unprepared for this moment, and mostly expecting to cry. When it was clear the tears weren’t coming, I just said, “No, not today, sweetie.” She repeated the question again. Twice. I told her Shannon had to move to a bigger house, so no, we couldn’t take milk to Shannon today. “I bring milk to Shannon tomorrow?” I told her the bigger house was too far away, and that she needed to drink her milk, and lots of milk after this, and grow bigger and stronger and live a big life before we could bring milk to Shannon. “I bring milk to Shannon,” she said. “Ok, but not yet,” I said.
Still holding the glass bottle in my hand, I shut the refrigerator door and watched Basil drink it down. I thought about the other half of the groceries, and wondered what was still sitting in Shannon’s refrigerator, unconsumed and destined to decay in place until one of us cleans it out. It was unfathomable to me that those two apples and an orange had outlasted her body here. Even the milk survived her by one inch. I opened the refrigerator again, and stuck the empty bottle back on its shelf, an act of sentimentality that Shannon would totally understand. She was sentimental in her own way. She saved small things, and they moved with her from place to place. Things that marked losses, but also times she was afraid she might forget, and those who knew her well knew each of their stories and where she tucked them away.
I threw out the pasta we split the week before, which I never finished and was starting to mold.
I thought about her headaches. They had been getting worse, and she was feeling worse. I wondered why the fuck I didn’t check on her Saturday when she didn’t answer. Basil tired of staring in the fridge, which I realized she had been doing alongside me the whole time. It occurred to me that she would be watching this entire grieving process like she watches everything, storing away all these small moments as little markers in her developing brain. And though today she wants nothing more than to take milk to Shannon’s house, outside of stories I tell and an empty milk bottle in the fridge, she probably won’t remember Shannon when she’s older.
But that last glass of milk, and that last orange, and their last hugs, kisses, and wild fits of laughter are all parts of her growing self now, and someday she too will have to grieve for someone she dearly loves. It’s a heartbreaking thought, but maybe she will have just enough of that stored away to make her grief just a tiny bit more bearable, and her life a tiny bit more joyful, even if she doesn’t remember where it came from.
Tomorrow, Basil and I will eat the last two apples for lunch. And she will probably say, “Shannon brought that apple.” And I have a feeling that tomorrow it will make me cry.