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Home » Stories, True and Otherwise

Now That Time Has Run Out

Submitted by on September 11, 2014 – 9:30 AM65 Comments


Time is the main topic on a funeral day: the quality of it spent, its scarcity, the odd way it behaves.

The sitting and waiting for the next necessary action — a funeral day is un-busy, we forget that part. "Can I just run back to grab –" Yes. Now that time has run out, somehow we have all of it in the world.

I didn't know Hilly very long, but he's one of those people you find yourself in step with on sight, no stride adjustment necessary. "Is it just me, or –" No. Now, there is a space where the ear we muttered into used to go. Across the street from a once-mighty church with boards for eyes, Hilly is at the front of the room, a well-loved toy in a suit that is as usual in these cases too big across the shoulders despite the valorous pinning efforts of the men with dark grey voices. The Velveteen Hilly, but in reverse, loved and now somehow not quite real.

We take our seats in the class-clown row. It is a hallowed place, to chronicle the best Hilly stories with big arms and elastic cringing. It's where he'd sit, we hope.

Jake takes the podium. "I'm Jake," he says, "and Hilly and I are best friends." The precise and gentle emphasis on "best" holds every companionable bike ride that ever was, every hour lolled looking at clouds or catalogs, all the made-up words and terrible trips and church giggles. He's very British about breaking our hearts into a thousand little sharp bits, Jake is, but break them he does.

Then there is an empty hour. Dirk and I go home and pretend there isn't a hole we may fall into while eating sandwiches, before we go to the Hillyhaus. Mrs. Hilly's tiny, fiercely polite father presides over the cold cuts. Dogs and cousins mill about, and in the pictures on every surface, Hilly is victorious, Hilly is content, Hilly is enjoying a sparkler at our wedding with toothy glee. Hilly is.

Then it's night, though only minutes seemed to pass, and I will look for Hilly where I can sometimes find my missed, in the dreams about unknown wings and secret doors. I can't conjure them, but sometimes they come to these shady rooms, my grandmother in all her ages, my aunts, Little Joe, Van who spoke to me like a fellow Mason even when I was nine. I want them to tell me where to go next, or how to follow them; they never do, but it's nice to see them again.

My head is a noisy spillway of tears and pinot. I get in bed and pet a cat and hope for hidden houses when I fall asleep, and when I wake up, my own Hilly has sent me pictures of her hair.

"Is it just me?" No. Never has been.

Thanks, Don.

(Thanks, Nation. Thanks, Hilly.)

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  • Nevsky says:

    Oh, Sars.


    Like many, I've come here every year since '01 and "For Thou Art With Us"…

    Thank you for your (beautiful, heartbreaking) words.
    Thank you for YOU.

    Sending you love and light, on this day and all others.

  • Laura says:

    I thought of you and Don today, like I (a random stranger tens of thousands of miles from New York) do every year. Happy birthday, Don. Peace to you, Sars.

  • Laura says:

    And rest in peace, Hilly.

  • SPM says:

    I come here every September 11 for your remembrances. Thank you for sharing them, and my condolences on your loss.

  • Vanessa M says:

    "'Is it just me?' No. Never has been." Thank you for another beautiful piece.

  • Sara J says:

    Tomato Nation was my first stop today, as it is every year. I'm so sorry for your loss, Sarah.

    Happy birthday, Don.

  • Melanie says:

    I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend.

    Add me to the list of people who come here every year. I have loved them all, but today I was reading through them again and Scents Memory took my breath away. Thinking of you and Don.

  • Maura Carney says:

    Although all well intentioned, a lot of remembrances on this day are becoming less "real" with the passage of time. That's never the case here. Happy birthday Don, and all the best to you Sarah.

  • Mingles' Mommy says:

    Like the others… I'm here every 9/11 …

  • year of the cat says:

    All my love, and thanks. And a Happy Birthday to Don.

  • Beanie says:

    Happy Birthday, Don.

    Bless you, Sars.
    And, thank you. Thank you so very much.

  • Rachel says:

    I thought it was kind of weird that I felt this overpowering instinct to check TN today, but I feel better knowing that we are all in this together. Thank you.

  • MB says:

    My first and only stop on this day. Thank you for sharing. Happy birthday Don.

  • Tyliag says:

    I know it's a somber day but there is something to love in the fact that we can all set our watches by a 'Sars has words about 9/11' piece. It's the glue in an already very strong bond. Happy Birthday Don. Love to Hilly's family and to you Sars as you say goodbye.

  • Alexis says:

    I, too, have come here every year since 2001. I don't know what else to say. Thank you for your writing.

  • circlegirl says:

    Thank you again for your words – every year since 2001.

    Prayers for your loss and I'm still hoping Don finds you again one day.

  • Clover says:

    It's been three cities and eight apartments and four boyfriends and one husband and one cat and six jobs since I sat at my desk weeping over your 2001 essay. It's good to know there are still some constants. Thank you.

    Like all the others, I'm sorry for your loss and hope that Don is somewhere having a happy birthday. I always hope he's read your words about him and chosen to remain anonymous. It makes me happy to believe he's out there and knows his actions made a difference.

  • Cindy McLennan says:

    I am so sorry for your loss, Sars.

    (Thanks, Don.)

  • Nicole says:

    I stop here every year, I wanted to say something meaningful about love and loss, but I believe you have already used all of the important words. Rest in peace Hilly, thank you Sars….and Happy Birthday Don.

  • bluesabriel says:

    It feels silly to say that I come here on this day, every single year, because that's what everyone here has already said. But I do, because this is the only place where remembrance doesn't feel somehow forced and overdone, demanding and desperate. I come here for your quiet but meaningful pieces. I have my own memories from that day, of course, but "For Thou Art With Us" seems to be the lens through which I always view what must have been like for the people of New York. Thank you again for sharing your experience.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I'm glad everyone's here. Let's have cake.

  • Jill says:

    I am sorry for the loss of your friend, Sars.

    Happy birthday, Don.

  • Rebecca U says:

    Everything bluesabriel said.

    Sorry for you loss Sarah. Happy birthday Don.

    God bless all from California.

  • Reader Gretchen says:

    Thank you Sars for your beautiful words. I am so glad you are in the world.

    Love and light to you and all the TN.

    Happy Birthday, Don.

  • Kay says:

    All the love in the world.

  • KLM says:

    Another one who comes here every year. There's no other place I want to go.

  • Deanna says:

    A toast to all the Hillys, then and now. Take care, good Nation.

  • Susan says:

    It's amazing, I'm a loyal Nation reader but on 9/11 I tear up when I open the page. Today is powerful for so many reasons. Thanks for sharing Hilly. And cake.

  • Melissa says:

    Beautiful post Sars…my condolences. Let's pass the cake…

    Happy Birthday, Don. Still hoping you'll find Sars again someday.

  • Jaybird says:

    I always want to say something profound that will fix it, but in the end, the best there is to say is that I'm sorry for your pain and for your missing and for your sadness at this loss.

    And Happy Birthday to Don, whom–I have ALWAYS been convinced–was an actual angel. Maybe those don't have birthdays as we know them, but wherever he is, I hope there are candles and cake.

  • Kim says:

    Oh, Sarah, oh, Nation…in my head I'm hanging on all your shoulders, having a good quick snotty cry. And then let's gather our wits and have brownies and remember that each of us is someone's Hilly, each of us has the potential to be someone's Don. Crowd on into my heart, y'all, there's room.

  • Beth C. says:

    I'm so sorry for your loss, Sars.

    Happy Birthday, Don.

  • Jude says:

    Another one who checks in each year on this day, from the other side of the world.
    I'm so sorry for your loss. You help us with ours.
    Thank you for the words, and the cake.
    And happy birthday, Don.

  • Tom Panarese says:

    Like so many others, I came here today like I do every year.

    I'm sorry for your loss, Sarah.

    All the best.

  • Martin Hoffmeier says:

    Sorry for your loss.

    Stay safe Don.

  • Bridget says:

    The 11-month-old I rocked as you made your way Uptown is a almost-14-year-old who read your original post for the first time today. Thank you, Sars for helping us remember. Thank you, Don, for helping Sars.

    Happy Birthday, Don. I'm sorry for your loss, Sars.

  • Sandman says:

    I'm so sorry for your loss, Sarah; thank you for sharing it with us. May we all find our missed ones, one day. Happy birthday, Don.

  • rayvyn2k says:

    Like the others, TN is my place to go every year on September 11. Every year I read your essay, every year you make me cry.

    I'm sorry for your losses. I hope they visit you in your dreams. Mine do. And I find some comfort from those visits.

    Wishing Don the happiest of birthdays on this somber day.

    Thanks, Sars.

  • Abby says:

    Every year. Happy birthday, Don.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Every year, every year. Happy Birthday, unknown Don, and you are with us, Sars.

  • Amy says:

    Every year, peeking in from Alaska. Thanks, Sars.

  • Bitts says:

    Every year, I start with Thou Art With Us, and finish with today's. Every year, it's wracking tears and black grief and wretched thankfulness that you've borne such brilliant witness. This date will never pass without needing your voice to mark it, Sars.

    Happy birthday, Don.

  • SorchaRei says:

    My first stop on 9/11 every year. Condolences on your loss, Sarah, and happy birthday Don.

  • Kat from Jersey says:

    Crying for you and Hilly and the nation and The Nation. Thanks as always.

  • turtle says:

    This is the first time I've cried today.

  • turtle says:

    And every 9/11. Thanks, Sars. And happy birthday, Don.

  • Duana says:

    Thank you.

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