He swam valiantly, just his head and small antlers visible above the whitecaps. Something had spooked him so badly that he had leapt off the end of the pier into the roiling, cold October waters of Lake Michigan and swam straight out as if he could make it to Wisconsin. He eventually turned and seemed to be headed for land, but whether the currents, or wind, or cold would let him ever find safe harbor again remains an unknown to me, as I couldn't bear to watch. Any more than I can barely watch my husband struggle as he loses sight of his landfall. There is a profound, poignant pain in being with him now. His body is so thin, bony ridges clear where muscle used to soften and hide. He struggles when I press into him, to say something, anything. Mostly he just sits, learning to the side, yearning to lie down, to let go. His once soft brown eyes glassy, unfocused, looking for or at something I cannot see. His cheek bones so defined and sharp, his knees locked in a Parkinsonian embrace with each other.
I carry a knot of grief in my chest all the time now. Friends and family try, with the same valor and constancy as the young buck, to keep me headed to shore, but I am uncharacteristically quiet and removed from the normal, regular patterns of life. Strangely, I am the opposite when I am with him. Like the clown, I smile all the time. I keep up a friendly, funny banter for him and for all the other residents and their families with whom I am locked in this dance of death.