By Terry Ratner, RN, MFA

These are ten things only you know now.


He joked that he would die young. You imagined ninety to one hundred. But “young” ended up meaning twenty-five.

In the memory book the funeral home gave you there was a page to record his exact age in years, months, and days. You added hours, you even added minutes, because you had that information. Even though you weren’t there when the exact moment of death came, you had the police report which stated the time of the accident. You also later obtained the autopsy which recorded the exact moment of resuscitation and the time when the nurses and doctors gave up and pronounced him officially to be dead.

Now, when thinking about his life, it seemed to you that minutes were so very important. There was that moment right after the phone call that you begged for fifteen more minutes. You would’ve traded anything, everything, for just one more second, for the speck of time it would have taken to say his name, to hear him say “Mom.”  

Later, when you thought about it, because there was so much time to think; too little time, too much time—time was just one more thing you couldn’t make sense of anymore, you wondered why he told you he was going to die young. The first time he said that, you playfully punched his arm.

Do not say that,” you said. “Don’t ever say that again.” But he said it another day and another and lots of days after that. And you punched his shoulder every time because it was bad luck, bad mental energy, but you knew he’d say it again.


He was the little man around the house. When something broke, he could fix it. This began when he was six or seven. He’d receive a new watch for his birthday and within days dismantle it. You’d walk into his room and see tiny metal pieces scattered on a square of cardboard. And, yes, that watch would be ticking soundly and keeping time after it was methodically put back together. 

The dark wood cabinets in the kitchen were slammed closed by a family of four. It didn’t take much for a hinge to loosen or for the door to be cocked to one side, its lower end touching the kitchen floor. All you did was quietly say his name and ask him to bring his tools and repair it to a working state. One time, he had been summoned twice in one week to fix the same cabinet. He’d turn, wave his forefinger, as if he was the father, and scold you for being careless.


You remember sitting on his bed with him for hours waiting for his dad, your ex-husband, to pick him up for the weekend. There he was, staring out his window, his small duffle bag next to him in front of the door, watching for the white Camaro to pull up to the cul-de-sac. You both waited on his blue comforter surrounded by black and white soccer balls, watching the outside shadows grow longer and an orange sun lowering in the western sky. He cried the last hour and asked you, “Where is Dad?” Your eyes became moist and you didn’t know what to say except that you both loved him very much.


He once had magical powers. When he was twelve years old, you could shuffle a deck of playing cards, and then pull one card out from the middle of the deck, concentrate on the number and suit while he closed his eyes and he’d identify the card each time. So you decided to find out if his powers of concentration stretched into answering questions he would know nothing about. You asked him, “What street did I live on when I was a child from the age of four to the age of eight?” Your eyes closed as you concentrated on the short four-letter word, never giving him a hint as to what it might be. After a silence of about two minutes he replied, “Bell” and you jumped up from the kitchen chair and clapped. A few more test questions and you were thinking about taking him out on the road, about having a son perform his gift in front of audiences all over the world; people who would ask him questions and hear answers that amazed them. Of course, you never took advantage of his special gift, except the one time you let him choose the numbers for a lottery ticket and win $50.00 for the family.


About TRatner

Terry Ratner is a freelance writer, registered nurse, and writing instructor in Phoenix, Arizona. In June of 2004, she graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction from Antioch University, Los Angeles. Writing has always served a purpose in her life, but it wasn't until her son died in a motorcycle accident in March, 1999, that she began to publish her works. What's unique about Terry is the way she balances the life of a nurse with the life of a writer. "Nursing allows me to give back to the community and then write about those experiences." Ratner teaches creative writing in a variety of settings from community colleges to a school for homeless children (Thomas J. Pappas) to wellness communities throughout the Valley of the Sun. In 2004, Terry launched an Arts and Healing program for children undergoing dialysis at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center. She has published numerous personal essays, cover stories, interviews, and book reviews for a variety of national and regional publications. Her manuscript, a work in progress, features a series of twelve essays, ten of which are introduced with black and white photos, dealing with issues of family and identity.
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3 Responses to TEN THINGS \ Part One

  1. Tracy says:

    You are so gifted and inspiring with your strength and your writing I really admire you strength and courage……..You are a gift to everyone who has experienced deep loss……………

  2. Joanne says:

    Looking forward to the other six-

  3. A while after our son died, my sister grew frustrated with the length and depth of my grieving and said, “I lost Jason, too. You’re not the only one.” She’s right. I wasn’t the only one who lost Jason, but there are so many things that ONLY a parent knows, moments that are tucked away in our memories and hearts. How could there not be?

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