Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Thinking About the End

A couple of Sundays ago, I was wandering the church with my 3-year old daughter who believes she is too good for the nursery. The other toddlers and babies and preschoolers happily play in the nursery while their parents sit in church, but not Miss Hoity-Toity. Oh no. This is payback for the many judgmental thoughts I had as a teenage nursery attendant. I would roll my eyes at mothers who wouldn't let their little ones cry a little or a lot when they were abandoned in the nursery.

Well, now I'm that mother. I've left her a time or two in the nursery, but when I've returned, she was gasping for breath and extra-clingy for the next day or two. She has a genuinely slow-to-warm-up personality and I can't see any reason to leave her in the nursery. So, I do my spiritual worship while I trail behind her and try to convince her to be still, just for a while, just until the congregational singing ends at least.

So, there we were, hanging out in the fellowship hall looking at a large display of pictures and memorabilia that had been set up for a funeral the day before. I studied the pictures and artifacts of this man's life, calculated how old he was when he died, figured out how old he was when he was married. Then, my eyes fell upon a plain brown plastic box labeled with the man's name. The box held his cremated remains.

How odd it is to have your life summed up on a long table full of pictures and items. How strange to be condensed small enough to fit into an unremarkable box. Eighty-two years and now he's gone.

Tonight, my husband has gone to Seattle to visit a dying woman. The last time I saw her, she looked fantastic. A couple of years ago, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but she'd responded very well to treatment. But the end is near now. She will slip from being a member of our world to being a memory.

Sometimes, I can hardly stand the thought that our time here is short. The world looms large and I have only seen a tiny speck of it. I've sunk my feet into the sand at Cannon Beach only a dozen times a most. I watched the sun set in Tahiti only ten nights. I breathed the brilliant air at Mt. Rainier a mere half a dozen times. I've never seen the Northern Lights or the Alaskan coastline. I haven't eaten lobster in Maine, nor have I gazed at the Grand Canyon.

So many books wait to be read and that doesn't count the brilliant prose yet to be written. My shelves alone could keep me busy for months, if not years. I haven't read Dickens or Conrad's "Heart of Darkness." I never developed an appreciation for poetry.

I haven't seen a live production of "The Nutcracker" at Christmas. I've never been to Hawaii. I've never even seen Niagara Falls.

My children's journeys have scarcely begun. I want to see the directions they take. I want to be waiting at the dock when their ships come in. I want to cheer at the the finish line. I want to hold grandbabies and prove that mothers-in-law can also be friends.

I think of the really beautifully written books I've read. When I read a great book, I am eager to know what happens and simultaneous dread the book's end. That's a shadow of how I feel when I ponder the story of my life stretching ahead. I look forward to the unfolding tale, but I shirk from the end. The thought of closing the book feels like a boulder on my chest and I can't breathe. So mostly, I don't think about it. Until I see a brown plastic box holding what used to be over six feet of man.

Occasionally, I think I should just go ahead and save my husband the trouble by writing my obituary now. But then I realize how incomplete it would be . . . at least I hope that it would be incomplete. I have more life to live, more stories to tell, more boxes to check. I need more material before my obituary will be worth the money the newspaper will charge to run it.

Plus, I need a better picture.


Blogger Tara said...

:( your post makes me want to cry, because thats exactly how i feel, there are not enough days to enjoy even a small amount of everything this world has to offer :( you have a very nice blog i was glad to find it :)

9:17 PM  
Blogger Krisco said...

I agree with what tara said.

9:53 PM  
Blogger Dee said...

I did do volunteer work in the nursery at our chuch and several of the mothers were like you. They would stay in the nursery with their child and I thought it was great because it helped us out too. I can fully understand why you do. Like you, I want to be there to cheer my children on.

Mine are grown now but they still need to know I am in their corner, or on the dock waiting for them. I will never do many of the things I wanted to do because much of what I could have used for traveling and such went to my kids for college and in one girls case, counseling but I would never regret it. Never. I love them and want the best for them, no matter what age.

I am sorry about your friend but may she find peace and rest with God.

I have to tell you, I just love this post. It is fantastic.

11:01 PM  
Blogger Chelsea said...

Fitting an entire person in a box at the end of life. What an incredible way you describe this, and how wonderful you are at writing your feelings about it.

I'll keep you and your friend in my prayers.

11:20 PM  
Blogger Smoov said...

Seems like you have been thinking a lot about the things you have done and the things yet to come! I think I will make a list sort of too, of the things I have not yet done and the things that I have done....I have done some of the things you haven't and not done some of the things you have! Maybe we could trade lives for a bit?

4:32 AM  
Blogger Judy said...


4:42 AM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I was reading this and thought, "She must be around 40." Then I looked at the profile up there ... Same type of thing started to happened to me about then.

6:27 AM  
Blogger ...just-rambling... said...

Similar thoughts have danced through my head since the birth of my grandaughter two years ago. (one month before I turned 40). There are so many things I want to accomplish and experience in what time is remaining and the death of a friend earlier this year emphasized how short that remaining time may be.

6:43 AM  
Blogger roz said...

I'm not sure when I changed...from having the same feelings you have, to having this new feeling that says "Well, I've done much of what I wanted to accomplish. I have two fine grown sons, both leaders, both loving the Lord and self-sufficient. So, Lord, I have other things to accomplish, if it be Your will, but whenever you get ready to take me home, I'm ready to go..." Don't get me wrong, I'm truly not in a hurry. I would like to see and hold my grandbabies, Dance at my childrens weddings, and more, but for now, I'm content with whatever my Lord has for me. Just know that I didn't feel that way 10 years ago!
Nice post!

6:55 AM  
Anonymous mopsy said...

Prayers for your friend.

9:32 AM  
Blogger Eyes said...

Your post is so interesting because you have so much before you that you want to do.

I have done so much already, I have lived my dreams, fulfilled my wishes -- and now I feel if I were to die tomorrow, I would have peace.

Yet somehow that leaves me with an unresolved feeling: what am I going to do for the rest of my life? What am I looking forward to?

It leaves an empty feeling and I've been trying to find an answer now for a while to resolve that!

The complete opposite of you :)

7:52 PM  
Blogger ellipsis... said...

hey mel, thanks for reading my mind. again.

8:14 PM  
Blogger barbara curtis said...

Mel -
You have outdone yourself on this one!

From chuckling at Little Miss Hoity Toity to being drawn up short by the abruptness of the box of ashes, to reflecting on my own sometimes tinged-with-panic feelings of having to leave without finishing everything I want to read and write and all the moments with my kids and grandkids (it's even worse at 56) you had my emotions in the palm of your hand.

So glad I made it over your way today. What a writer you are, my friend!

10:01 AM  
Blogger Julana said...

Barbara's right. Good job.
I know how you feel, but think I've come more to a stage of acceptance of my finiteness. I will not read all the books. I will not get to all the places. I will not write the book I once would have.
I would be more than content leaving with my son well-taken care of, and able to make his needs/wants known.

(BTW, I have read Heart of Darkness twice, and you can take that off your list right now.) :-) Lobster is not that great; Niagara Falls and Northern Lights are. Awesome. Also, add Big Sur to your list.

6:08 PM  
Blogger Suburban Turmoil said...

This was beautiful. My husband and I went to Cannon Beach two years ago for our third annual honeymoon. LOVED IT. We can't wait to go back, even though we live clear on the other side of the country.

Anyway, it stirred a memory... Thank you.

10:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't Describe half the time the feelings i possess,Although We all share a common fate And that is our own demise...Times like those ... when all things stand clear and all memories reminiscent to those we've watched pass.
I,ve learned at an early age we're not promised tomorrow. We're merely floating within the tides of time and when our tide rolls in our Life leaves with it....I just hope and pray that whatever is left after our passing is something worth Living and dying for. You all will be in my prayers god bless
_st Killough

11:02 PM  

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