June 11, 2015
I am sitting on my comfortable old porch, watching the sun set behind the bluffs. Water burbles as it falls into the little pond in my rock garden. Birds are having multitudinous dinner conversations. My thoughts wend their way to my dying father-in-law, sitting in his chair in a bright yellow room in a building 200 miles away.
What does it feel like, I wonder, to be removed from the familiar rooms and gardens of your home to spend the days that remain of your life in a single room in a building full of old and dying people? What must it feel like to live with the knowledge you will never return to your home–never sit in your old chair or wander through the cluttered rooms to sneak a slice of pie from the refrigerator?
….One day you drove to a routine doctor appointment, and just never came home again…
You wheel down the long hall to the patio entrance. You cannot even walk on your own now. The gardens here are lovely–meticulously cared for by some hired gardener. You miss the ramshackle mess of your yard with its overgrown tangle of shrubberies and perennials and weeds. Here there are no deer, no squirrels raiding the bird feeders. Here, everything is tidy. Everything is sanitary and sterile.
You live here now. You will die here. You’ve run out of somedays and tomorrows. The spool of your life thread has fed itself into the warp and woof of your story. You know that this path you’ve traveled so many years is coming to its last bend, its last mile before the unavoidable Door through which you know you must pass, leaving this old wreck of a body behind in the world to which it belongs, along with the ramshackle house and the tangled gardens and the stacks of books and the closets full of old junk you found intriguing those golden days when you hauled it home.
You wonder what lies beyond the Door? No matter…you’re going to find out whether you want to or not.
Back in the ramshackle house with the tangled gardens she sits at her table in her little kitchen world, stubbornly clinging to what was–to the familiar–refusing to acknowledge how swiftly the days are rushing by as she is carried on the currents toward that same Door her husband fast approaches. There can be no retreat, no turning back, no camping on the banks of this swiftly moving river. But oh, how hard she tries to swim against this current, back upstream somewhere where life made sense and she was comfortable and unafraid.
We watch as little by little her life slips through her frail fingers–its brilliance fading fast. We would take her hand and comfort her; help her relax into the inevitable flow. But the fight still blazes in her eyes. She’ll have none of it.
With one last brilliant flash, the sun sinks behind the bluffs, below the horizon. The birds have finished their dinner parties and are wheeling in the dusky sky, heading home. A dog trots by, absent a human companion. A mosquito is whining in my ear, looking for her own needed sustenance. The world is quieting.
My heart is full of love, and sadness; but as I watch the stars begin to wink into view, I wonder what incredible beauty, what wonders and joy wait beyond that Door to which we all must one day come. A passage to look forward to with excitement, rather than dread? An event to embrace, rather than resist? Perhaps on this side we see the setting of the sun, but on the other side is its rising.