any hour now…
it is, like so many of the lines we draw inside our lives, invisible, undetected from the outside. and yet, for years now, it has loomed, larger and larger. defined me, in many ways.
especially in these last two weeks, i’ve noticed.
if there is a lull in the whirl around me, there it creeps. the voice that whispers, “this is how it looked for him, the parting frames. these were his final days.”
and, now, it’s down to hours.
my papa is the one whose eyes i see the world through right now. especially as i look upon the ones i love so dearly. the ones whose face i study. whose voice, whose laugh, whose footsteps i could pick out of a crowd of hundreds of thousands. the ones whose rhythms, rise and fall, thrum within me.
my little one especially. the one who holds my hand still, as we walk to camp most mornings. the one who, as i tuck him into bed, lets it all spill out in whispers, stored up, saved for that blessed hour at the edge of day and night when the stirrings simmer over. he is young enough, baby enough, to still climb into my lap, to still reach out while getting water from the fridge, and wrap me in a squeeze, unannounced.
i’ve done the math. done it over and over, for years and years. and now it’s come.
my papa died when he was 52 and six months and eight days.
that’s how old i’ll be tomorrow.
and as the hour comes, so too does the drumbeat in my heart. i am, in some ways, coaxing it over the line. don’t give out now, i tell it. don’t take me now.
and as i say those words, i imagine he did too. never would have thought his time was up. shouldn’t have been, damn that it was.
it is the oddest slipping of my self into his self. as if the two of us have, for these shadowed days, blurred, become the oddest form of one. i cannot not see the world through the lens of what must have been his. cannot not count the days, the hours.
i’d think it odd–might be too shy to mention it–if i’d not found out that i am hardly alone.
but months ago, i wrote about how it is to become the age your parent was when he or she died. and by the hundreds, i got letters. i am not the first, nor the last, certainly not the only one who’s done the final calculation. who knows, to the hour, when the line is crossed.
when, God willing, my life’s hours extend beyond the hours that were his.
and so there is a holiness like no other draped across these days. today especially, perhaps. the day ticking toward the last.
if you were told you’d one day left to live, how would you live it?
a cocktail party question, perhaps.
except when it’s not.
and i’d think this might be the closest i could come to taking a pass at that question in real time.
and so, this holy blessed day, i am entering into the hours as if a bride. i am paying supreme attention.
i’ve been in the garden, squished my toes in mud, as the hose rained down. as my delphinium and roses drank their morning’s rejuvenation.
i watched the sun play peek-a-boo with clouds.
i cuddled with the cat.
i let my little one sleep in. no camp today.
today, he and i are playing, the way it should always be. except most days it can’t be. we don’t let it be. most days we let life get in the way of living.
we are holding hands today. walking down the street to a place where the screen door slaps, and the kitchen cloud of frying bacon and coffee perked and pancakes sizzling on the grill wafts out onto the sidewalk.
we aren’t walking by today. we are asking for a table for two, please. three, if his big brother will join us. will make a holy celebration of this day.
they’ll not know why it is their mama seems full to bursting all day long. they’ll not hear the unspooling dialogue inside, the vespers of deep thanksgiving, the holy pleas and promises.
they’ll not know how very merged is the consciousness of their mama and their grandpa geno, as she and he criss-cross the holy line of what was his, and what is hers. and she holds up his final hours, once again, in a sacramental lifting, one last time, of a holiness that for so long has defined her.
her papa’s life cut short. too short. and a long-held prayer that she’d do right by whatever hours came to her.
dear God, be with us all. this most holy day, and every other.
an odd sort of meandering today, perhaps. more like the whispering of my soul. in white-on-black. like trying to catch a cut-glass rainbow, splattered on the wall. trying to wrap in words this inescapable line in the landscape of my soul. it’s an odd, sad mix of fear and hope, of chest-expanding promise and crushing loss. i’ve no choice, really, but to go on a prayer, and plan on being here tomorrow. not just for me, but, especially, for that little one i so love, who still so deeply needs me. as did my brothers need their papa, as did my mother. as did i.
how would you spend your hours if you had some inkling they might be among your last?
I have been thinking of your question…off and on through the days of this lovely weekend. I have an anniversary approaching and it has been much in my company lately. Death is a line in our experience which some of us see it as a marker in the journey to another form of energy and spirit and give bits of our selves to it as the days progress after the parting. Others I have spoken with, see it as a final moment with nothing beyond. I am not able to truly understand that perception and am glad of this.
Anniversaries of death, especially of those who connect strongly to our history and intimate sense of our selves, are powerful. The line or marker of the death of a closely held person prompts me to stop and “be” and in that “being” listen and observe beyond the surface layers of my day. It informs and expands my senses and spirit, connects and reconnects parts of myself that have gone wandering. We will pass these old markers and find new ones. I am grateful that my sadness and grief can expand my soul rather than destroy it. I am grateful that you can write about this terribly beautiful experience in such a tender way. As always, thank you dear bam.
Monday, July 13, 2009 – 09:45 AM
I have never had opportunity to think much about my last hours on earth. This meander is a thinker of sorts, and I’ve been thinking about it for a few days. Hopefully, I would be able to be with those I love most, but I wouldn’t want them to know how close to the end I was. I would hopefully avoid drama and concentrate on lightheartedness, laughter, and joy in the moment of togethernes. I do know, though, that when those final breaths come, I’d be okay being alone, not wanting anyone who loves me to experience that final moment of my being.
I do hope, BAM, that you got past this terrible moment of yours in a way that made you happy, both commemorating what needs to be remembered and celebrating your future at the same time.
Monday, July 13, 2009 – 02:56 PM
I have a friend who felt a lightness when she grew past the age of her mother who died while only in her 40s. My friend is in her 60s and she said she has felt unexpected great joy each day since passing the age of her mother when she died, as though it is a bonus day of life–experiencing so many things with her own children that her mother didn’t get to do. She said she almost felt an obligation to be witness to the specialness of each day.
Monday, July 13, 2009 – 05:25 PM
I am now years older than my mother ever lived to be (she was just 41 when she died.)
There are days when it feels like a gift.
And there are days when I feel like a thief, that I got all these days she never got.
And there are days when I’m terrified I’ll leave my children too early.
So I cannot – will not – picture my last moments. Just don’t want to go there….
Tuesday, July 14, 2009 – 11:23 AM
oh, lord, i only just now found these marvelous brilliant, spine-chilling comments. forgive me if that question cut too close to home. i was so living in the thick of it, i couldn’t help ask it…….oh, anne, i so know what you mean, about one minute you feel like a thief, and one minute you hold up the hour, the moment, as if a holy chalice, a vessel of a gift that is yours to fill….
it was an extraordinary day. i found myself clutching my rosary all through the night friday night. as if…..isn’t it funny how we impulsively, instinctly return to, clutch, the talismans of our younger days…..anyway i find myself flashing through all the thoughts that anne shares. and i do find myself relishing, relishing. holding hands with my little one is among the tenderest ever. it is as if i am pressing his soul into mine, and mine into his…..
i have said so many times–likely here, as well–that at some level pull up a chair is a love letter to my boys, to record the many facets of what love looks like. i think all of us who have lost a parent at a tender age maybe live with a soft soft whisper that there are no guarantees. and each day, a holy blessed miracle. i have never felt that truth more sharply than this weekend as i crossed that line.
i should add this here. it is a line from one of my magnificent brothers. we were emailing back and forth about this new passage of my life–beyond that line–and how maybe, in some corners of my life, i could finally spread my wings and fly, and he wrote back to tell me to set sail upon the wind. adding:
“the wind has no memory.”
i found that line wholly gorgeous.
i might have set it up wrong, but i’m at work and don’t have my emails in front of me. what i took it to mean was, let the past fall away….and be not afraid….
Tuesday, July 14, 2009 – 04:02 PM
a beautiful beautiful friend of mine sent this tonight. i knew you all deserve to read it……
“And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;
For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.
When you part from your friend, you grieve not;
For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”
Tuesday, July 14, 2009 – 09:38 PM