I have been a widow for exactly three months now. “21” was always a lucky number for me and I chose it for any lottery card or game of chance that I played. I once won an enormous stuffed elephant on the wheel at a fair – can’t recall which one now – because I picked 21. But that number represents another event now. If one sees death as release from pain and suffering, and as a journey into another realm of light and healing, then it is still a number of good fortune. But perhaps not so much for anybody dealing with the aftermath of that release. It takes awhile to shift perspective.
I’ve stopped wanting to make phone calls that cannot be answered any more, or sort through yard-sale books in search of specific themes that would please another reader instead of myself. I walk through the rooms of our home in town and they feel empty of anything or anyone. It’s such a beautiful, cozy setting with its burnished wood floors and bright windows. I keep hoping that today – or tomorrow – the right person will walk in and say, “THIS is for me!” It needs to beat to the pulse of a new family. I’m not desperate financially, just hopeful to place this dear house with people who can build their future in it. And maybe walk the hiking trail as David so loved to do, while he still could.
“What would you do, while you still could?” is one of the questions always posted on ALS sites. David would have a ready answer: “I would WALK!” And walk, and walk. Bend his fingers, raise his arms, shout across the hills to hear his own echo. Yes, he’d do all those things. Simple things we don’t tend to think about.
David’s memorabilia – the prints he collected over the decades – still adorn the walls. Armies, ancient battles, ships of beauty and grace. All the history that he cherished. His rows of books wait for attention, carefully collected and arranged on shelves he built himself, just before his hands failed.
Then I stand above the river, here in the country where he so enjoyed spending the warmer months, and gaze across the water as he so often loved to do. His zero-gravity chair sits empty now. The hollowed grass where the dog curled up is grown back. Cash would lie in the shade next to David by the hour. I sometimes wonder what he thinks of this absence. How much he understands. Whether he has forgotten already or still waits for a return that can never come.
At night, the flowers glow on the little memorial cross until their solar power is spent. By the time I go to bed, it’s faded. Brief illumination in the darkness – like us, I suppose. We shine for our allotted span and then the shadows fold around us.
I’m learning to wear my changed status with greater comfort these days. Or at least with acceptance. I know there are no reversals, not unless some brilliant physicist unravels the true meaning of time and enables us to move freely on its continuum. That may come, but not yet. For now, we’re perched in the present. We feel the mist falling soft on our hair and breathe the sweetness of today’s lilies as they open. Every word I type here represents an increase in my age. This is irrevocable. In some future not imagined, I shall have my own significant date with an exit. Someone will recall that number with a certain sense of loss, regret, maybe even relief.
I can only pray that I’ll do good with the balance owing, between now and then. I need to cut through the clutter and clatter until I find what is most likely to make a difference. The rest is just extra layers. These can become heavy and pointless. Perhaps the greatest blessings, the finest gifts, have no weight at all.
The Life we have is very great.
The Life that we shall see
Surpasses it, we know, because
It is Infinity.
But when all Space has been beheld
And all Dominion shown
The smallest Human Heart’s extent
Reduces it to none.
– Emily Dickinson