Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday, Meditation


Growing up in a small town,
we didn't notice
the background figures of our lives,
gray men, gnarled women,
dropping from us silently
like straightpins to a dressmaker's floor.
The old did not die
but simply vanished
like discs of snow on our tongues.
We knew nothing then of nothingness
or pain or loss—
our days filled with open fields,
turtles and cows.

One day we noticed
Death has a musty breath,
that some we loved
died dreadfully,
that dying
sometimes takes time.
Now, standing in a supermarket line
or easing out of a parking lot,
we realize
we've become the hazy backgrounds
of younger lives.
How long has it been,
we ask no one in particular,
since we've seen a turtle
or a cow?

"Straightpins" by Jo McDougall, from Satisfied with Havoc. © Autumn House Press, 2004

After living in her neighborhood for nearly seven years, today the Matron finally met the woman who lives in the prettiest house in the 'hood, a trim brick and stucco situated on a stunning expanse of greenery -- perfect grass populated with patches of daisies, cosmos, roses, peonies, black-eyes susans, seedums and more. It's lovely.

The woman was having a garage sale as a fundraiser for Bob. The Matron, with Satan's Familiar at the tail end of her run, paused to fondle the merchandise and asked who Bob was.

Woman: "My husband. He was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer on Thanksgiving Day."

Statements like these, if treated appropriately, signify Significant Conversation Ahead. There is no easy way -- on a sparkling Sunday morning when all you really want to do is get on with your own life, have your first cup of coffee, read the paper, and enjoy the precious private and well-planned moments before the children descend upon you -- to step around this statement: my husband is dying and h'es just 58.

So the Matron put down the leash and listened. This is a story of loss upon loss upon loss. Brain cancer has already stolen this life, the cancer lodged precisely where personality and cognition reside. This is a story of pain in all its manifestations, its entire bag of tricks and tools.

When she bade this neighbor good-bye, the light on the red lilies in the garden looked particularly bright. The air took on an eagerness that hadn't been there before. Those precious well-planned childless moments were gone, replaced by the moments she had just experienced and she was a little wiser for them. Not that she feels pity for Bob or sees herself faring better. Not at all. Wiser because one day, she too will take that leg of her own journey--the spring toward death.

This is the moment she's been giving, here, typing. Who knows if there will be a next? She's grateful to be reminded: keep waking up, keep experiencing the moment, and allow gratitude to make the demands of the day less pressing.


Anonymous said...

Excellent meditation. Excellent poem. As I age I find myself wondering about my own eventual end. Will it be quick? Will it be lingering, making everyone else as miserable as I will be? No way to know, just keep enjoying life as long as possible.

Sue said...

Very thought-provoking post...

I just found your blog yesterday, it's nice to meet you.

The Green Stone Woman said...

I would hate for that to be my end at the age of 58, or to see the one I love die in such a way. That is a very cruel joke that life has played on those two people. I suppose I ought to thank The Great She for allowing me to be healthy still, though I suffer from a mental disorder. Sometimes I wish to be dead, but only if I get to choose how. Today I don't want to be, because I just read your post. It made me change my mind.

TexasDeb said...

Thank you for sharing this poignant reminder of the frailty and brevity (58! too close for comfort) of life. And thank you for putting that leash down to listen. I am sure your neighbor has experienced many too uncomfortable to stay past that initial announcement.

Hay said...

Bravo Matron.

Dooce who?

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

That perspective is like nothing else. None of us knows anything about the future.

jenn said...

Heartbreaking. And I love the poem.