BEFORE.  AFTER.

In wellness and good spirits, I’d talked on the phone to my son for almost a half hour the previous evening from his Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan and he sounded calm and focused. The next evening, I drove to my suburban home from a job which gave me the trappings and imagined security of the Canadian Dream, provided to me by countless others and efforts that I could never fully thank or comprehend. It was an evening in late September. Even though it was a Monday, I poured a glass of wine to contemplate the moment, to savor the power of choices made in freedom. A knock at the front door. The instant no longer felt right, as if it was mine.  I continued standing with my back to the unanswered door for one last hold of before.  The wine in its glass went untouched onto the counter. Three Canadian Forces officers in full dress uniform stood there.  How many are the seconds to deliver a few dozen simple words, which contain and shatter a lifetime of befores?  Not enough to contain all of eternity.  There will never again be a before. The house soon filled with neighbors, friends, and officials. Stunned grief.  Tears.   Unfocused nothingness.  All concentrated on the end of before until there are only two friends left to spend the night and to begin to deal with it all – the details, the media, the dangerous chasm of numbness. I left early the next morning for the first gathering of the extended family and how to live when there will never be the possibility of making sense of the senseless – this after. Alone, I returned late at night, so alone, and the forever un-tasted wine still sat on the counter.  I gave it a dull glance and poured it down the drain like all the befores, which will never come after.

Michael Hornburg