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Monday, May 7, 2018

Grieving Joseph Goska, My Brother

May 1, 2018, 7:36 p.m. It had been a long day. End of the semester. Much going on at work, with my writing, and the warblers were moving through Garret Mountain. 

Dinner was cooked, and much awaited. Rice, lentils, and vegetables. A standard. A favorite. I glanced at my email before walking into the kitchen to spoon everything onto plates. 

I saw an incoming email from an unknown sender. I saw the subject line, "Joseph Goska." I said, oh, effing no, not again, I cannot do this again. 

Phil. Mike. Antoinette. Now Joe? 

I just knew from the subject line. But I read the email. 

"Hi Diane...
My name is ____ _____ and I am a friend of your brother, Joe.
I'm very sorry to inform you that he has passed away this past
Friday, April 27.
Please contact me at your earliest convenience.

I've been crying a bit every day since. 

I've been reliving every memory I have of my brother Joe. Frankly I did not know I had that many. 

I've been living, at moments, in my childhood home every day since. The close, fragrant, and humid kitchen. The upstairs bedrooms with the slanting walls festooned with Raquel Welch in a fur bikini, cubby-hole-bookcases full of paperback sci-fi. The backyard where Tramp, holy medicine dog, keeps secrets and keeps watch. The stoop on a summer night, katy-dids, lacewings, and frogs. The languages, the songs, the stories, the Slovak, the Polish, the poppy seeds.  

Antoinette, present, palpable and real as any Paterson street dweller, is making sharp-tongued comments, scolding me not to be such an emotional dyslexic feather-head, and urging me to get on the stick and take care of concrete, real-world, white-collar type things that need taking care of. She's reminding me of my tears at Phil's funeral, and she's saying that crying was stupid and didn't help then, and it's not helping, now. 

Mike is dynamic and annoying. He's making some point about the universe, while simultaneously trying to pick up some girl. 

Daddy is harrumphing while reading his newspaper. 

My mother's heart is utterly broken that no one Joe was related to was with him at the end. 

I wish Joe's friend had told me sooner. I cared about Joe. Aunt Madeline cared about Joe. Sister-in-law Annie cared about Joe. Cousin Margie, aka Marcus, cared about Joe. Niece Amanda cared about Joe. Amanda and I went to the house a couple of years back and left a note. Joe, what's up? We care about you. Get in touch. 

My childhood friends, lived down the block, Joanne and Elaine, cared about Joe. 

Elaine emailed me Thursday: "Danushha, just got off the phone with my sister Joanne. She told me that your brother Joe is home under Hospice Care. Didn't know if you were aware of this or not.Thought you needed to know. God bless and keep you in this time of suffering." 

I am coping as best I can. At moments I feel totally sengue. (Sengue -- a word from CAR. It means "empty" or "naked" and also "I do not have malaria at this moment and I am not peeing blood so really I have nothing to complain about.") 

At other moments I cry. 

I just had one of those moments and so I am posting this now, sending it out into the void my brother now inhabits and where I too will soon go. 

I am grateful to a couple of friends who have sent me emails asking me questions like, "Are you eating?" 

Believe it or not even a food-a-holic like me loses her appetite at moments like this. That dinner of rice and lentils and vegetables ended up in the trash. 

Joe is holding me in his lap in this photo of Phil, Mike, me, Joe, and Antoinette. I'm the only one left from this photo. God has not allowed any of my siblings, so far, to live to the Biblical three score and ten, ages that our parents reached and surpassed.


  1. I am praying for you. Grief leaves you breathless. This I know. Try to remember to breathe in, and breathe out. May our Mother Mary, who understands the depth of your grief, comfort you in her loving arms and press you to her Son's Most Sacred Heart.

  2. I’m so sorry, Danusha. So many losses, and now Joe. I’m choking up a little here myself just in sympathy with you, as there aren’t words usually to express these deep losses, you the writer actually have those words; words that relate in some ways to my losses.
    That is grace.

    Beautifully stated, and I hear the deep sadness between the lines. Antoinette could be so mean to you, and yet you always remember her with love.
    That is grace.

  3. Dear Dr. Goska,

    I am deeply sorry about Your brother.
    Please accept my sincere sympathy on Your loss.
    May Your memories give You peace and comfort.

    Wieczny odpoczynek racz mu dać, Panie,
    a światłość wiekuista niechaj mu świeci.
    Niech odpoczywa w pokoju wiecznym.

    1. Lukasz thank you so much for caring. I really appreciate it.

  4. Sorry for your loss. May you have peace and blessing