Exploding St. Paul



I just found out that St. Paul Hospital is coming down. The implosion is set for 8 a.m. tomorrow.  My son wants to drive into Dallas and watch it fall. I’m on the fence.

Mark died at St. Paul. In the “demo cam” images of the remaining structure, I can actually see the room on the third floor where he died.

That building is the last place that I saw him, held him, spoke to him, laughed with him, sat with him, watched tv with him, hugged him and kissed him goodnight.

On the other hand, it was his prison, the place where we rode out one miserable, horrific, infuriating, terrifying crisis after another. For the entire first year after Mark died, I avoided the hospital district, especially St. Paul, especially that section of Inwood Road between Harry Hines Boulevard and I-35.

The last time I drove by, a few weeks ago, I was shocked to see that the hospital was in the process of being dismantled, demolished. I felt this rush of righteous anger, and I believe something akin to “Screw you, asshole St. Paul! Burn it down!” may have been uttered.

Then I felt like…kind of empty. Ripped open. At the time, I was having my own implosion. I was feeling kind of like that building looked: used up, torn up, exposed, devastated.

So, I really don’t know that I can watch it fall without falling a little myself. That building hosted some very, very bad times, without a doubt.  It held some precious memories, too.

There was a little courtyard garden, not very pretty, but a garden just the same. One day, I got to surprise Mark with an outing there. He was eager to get outside, but wasn’t at all happy about needing a wheelchair. So he worked hard on building up his strength and stamina, and the next time we got to go to the garden, he was by-God pushing that chair instead of sitting in it. I can see him there, face tilted up, eyes closed, basking in the little patch of nature after weeks of being stuck indoors. The air and sunshine felt luxurious, like something we’d loved and forgotten.

Since moving into the widowhood, I have, at various times, considered sneaking into the garden and sprinkling some of Mark’s ashes there, but I couldn’t make myself go back to that building.  Glad of that now. Although Mark Allen Daves would be all the way jazzed about being part of something that was going to be blown up.

Anyhow, so long, St. Paul.  Only one of us is going to survive this, and I’m gratified to say that it’s me. I may or may not be witness to your noisy, dusty end in a few hours. Regardless, you’ll live on in our memories and who knows, maybe some part of you will end up coming back as a parking garage.

It’s just too damn bad about the garden.



For Robert Wilonsky’s blog in The Dallas Morning News about the live streaming of the demolition, go here .

For street closures and other information regarding the implosion of St. Paul Hospital, go here .



About Vicki Caroline Cheatwood

Writerly. Rebooting. Evolving. Searching for great chicken salad.
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4 Responses to Exploding St. Paul

  1. The way buildings hold memories is a mystery to me. The power of rooms enclosed by walls is so strong. The memories are of course inside of us and in the air that surrounded us when they were made, not in the physical building. The destruction of a building might cause memories housed there to rush out and coalese with those inside us (instead of being trapped, bumping into other people’s memories that are anchored in the same space). Perhaps the destruction is like a fire, ending something but purifying the memory of it too. Maybe you can think of it as setting the memories free to be yours alone. Your heart tells you what is best, Vicki. xoxoxox Robin

  2. Wendy Welch says:

    Thinking about you and your boys today, Vic. St. Paul’s is Willy’s alma mater.. where he was in treatment for a month getting clean and sober, 26 years ago this month. Maybe there’s a symbolic cleansing, resulting in rising from the ashes, rebirth.Anyway, you are on my mind.  love you,Wendy

    • Thank you, Wendy. Another friend, whose spouse also died at St. Paul, was there to witness the event this morning. He felt drawn to be there. Like my friend Robin Rice Lichtig says, buildings hold mysteries, memories. I stayed home this morning and meditated as it was happening, then later watched it on YouTube and had a good, cleansing sob session. Lately, my favorite mantra for my sorrows has been this: I’m free. It centers me to think it, to speak it, “I’m free.”

      Also from Robin, the image comes of all those memories, trapped for so long, now released to their owners. Beautiful. I love my writeractorartistsingercreatives friends.

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