Our old ones are dying off. The fewer they are, the closer I am. I die but life goes on. There are more behind.
The message said your Dad had died on Wednesday – mid January – summer in full bloom. Life presents itself in shades of ripe green and plump fruit in mid summer. Hope rides high on warm winds and sunshine. The season holds its own grace. Perhaps a rather lovely time to take one’s leave. You said you were there so I suppose you could see that the shoes had grown too tight and the shirt too loose. Did he say he was ready or did he still feel the pull of familiar faces, the known landscapes, the hum and the drum of the daily beat of life? Was there something friendly about the pesky droning of blow flies or the twittering of native birds?
They say we have no choice about how and when we die if we choose the path of nature but I am struck by her kindliness when we place our worn out bodies into her care. She recognizes our bones and flesh as part of her own. She sees us stripped free of all adornment and calls us to her. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. Home to home.
My breath is not labored. I have no pain. I do not face the door alone – yet. I am the teller of tales of those who were there in time to say goodbye. Precious farewells. The flow of love restored at the eleventh hour: spoken words or a touch unlike anything experienced during an entire life time with the person; a deep knowing beyond the fabric of the familiar.
Some say, “I stepped out for a coffee and she left while I was gone”. Others tell of impossible train journeys through the night and across the Channel. I sat suspended in the air for two days but he was still there when I arrived. Time enough. Time enough. Her mother departed December 31st leaving behind naked trees brush strokes against a winter sky. Her timing an exquisite use of the full stop leaving her aging child free to write the next chapter.
And these tales feed our ongoing lives. They give us a sense of an ending that enriches the poetry of each day that remains available to us. When the old ones go their leaving reminds us of our finite nature. Our souls may seek refuge in the myth of eternity but whatever reality we have constructed during our life time and whatever family we have belonged to that has aided and abetted the construction of our personal histories we leave it and them all behind when this life force finally leaves us. We do know this.
I do not speak here of life’s tragedies. What requiem could possibly assuage the pain of the untimely death. The only child in a car accident on the other side of the world. The elder brother to AIDS. The younger sister to cancer in eight days. The slaughter of the innocent by the ignorant. There is no song of the soul to sing to those who remain behind.
But we arise again and again out of the ashes and the debris. We shed the accessory, the unnecessary, the unimportant. We put on the shoes and tidy the hair and go out to meet the world. We find ways to love the living. We add poetic license to old wounds. We take sweet delight in the incoming and outgoing of breath. We wait our turn hoping for timeliness.
I offer this requiem to those who have gone before us and I look to those behind struggling with their own myth of reality. I watch time eroding.
January 20th, 2018.