I started reading the obituaries after he came home from the hospital, checked them like he checked his stocks, like they mattered as much as his test results. I was preparing to navigate my own goodbye. I read about the fresh deaths; I read the archives posted as part of a This Day in History series. For three months I surrounded myself with death—steeped and immersed myself. I followed each reported surgery and hospitalization of Ted Kennedy, grieved for Gerald Schoenfeld, Sydney Chaplin, Bea Arthur, Horton Foote— those theater giants he taught me to admire. Every day I lost a new, meaningful someone, each a dry run for the one I never wanted to prepare myself to lose.
Katharine Johnsen studies and teaches at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where she is the recipient of the Bernice Kert Fellowship. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Mid-American Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Birmingham Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She was recently awarded a scholarship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and earned her BA from Emory University.