Thursday, October 29, 2009
The following is something I wrote for my weekly writing group. The writing seed was "gone".
My daughter asks, “Can we buy a balloon for Jessi?” I ask why. “Today would be her eighteenth birthday.” I fill in the blanks. Jessi, her best friend from elementary school, died two years ago in a car crash.
I check my emails hoping for an update on a good friend. Last Thursday he suffered a “substantial” stroke. His wife, one of my closest friends for forty years, sits at his side in an ICU. Unable to speak, he may, or may not, be able to respond to questions by squeezing his hand. We are told we should know something today. She waits for the doctor to arrive and announce the shape of their new life.
I sit and watch the orange, red and amber leaves drift away from the giant tree. The ground below it is already covered. Some leaves let go more gracefully than others.
I think back over last night’s phone call. A dear friend told me one of her daughter’s best friends was killed this month when thrown from her horse. Her last words as she galloped away were, “I love this mare!” She’d been invited to row with our Olympic crew team but chose instead to attend Harvard. Always active, that day she was riding with friends. Not a bad way to go, I think, feeling passion and joy at that last moment. Would I feel the same were she my child?
I peruse my “To Do’s”. Pay bills. Clean kitchen. Take out trash. What will I be doing at that moment my life ends? Why are the important things not on my list?
I look at my watch. In thirty minutes I will drive to an appointment.
Just as I cannot see the air that moves my lungs I cannot see the time that remains. How do we make our choices?
A crow scolds me loudly from branches overhead. “Who asked you?” I scold back.
I sit, overwhelmed by ideas of all I want to accomplish—lofty goals and small flourishes—yet I cannot live each moment amped up, adrenaline coursing through my veins, pushing me to move faster. I want to savor, not squander, what time is left but the weight of these thoughts makes me crazy, immobile. It is a delicate balance—choosing where next to place my feet.
I remember Sean. Slowly strangled in the grip of ALS, he stretched his dying out, but that was not his choice. At thirty-nine the note he left behind read, “…I wish you all a long life, a happy life, and a death you don’t see coming.” He had time to say goodbye but was that worse?
Before this day is gone let me do one true thing:
Experience beauty that steals my breath.
Revel in my body’s movement.
Give voice to my I-love-you’s.
Create anything that merits the space it occupies.
Laugh long and hard from the boundaries of my soul.