I am somewhere in between tonight. Half way there, yet still so far away. Living years gone by. Wondering about years to come.
I am neither here nor there. Time sweeps over me even as I sit here in this haze of memories.
And yet. I might just be nine years old again. I just might. Like my sweet Sarah is now. A little girl with bobbed brown hair who feels like a big, important girl because she gets to stay overnight at her auntie’s house—all by herself. She will sleep in a twin bed, surrounded by loads of books she has never read. Books just waiting for her to devour and discover. She will survey her Auntie’s vast and impressive record collection, the many records of Elvis and others of which the specifics about such that little girl will one day not remember. Which she will one day just hold careful in her memory: a snapshot of those dozens and dozens of records stacked high against the wall of a room. Memories like this one will forever be in that little girl’s head.
This little girl, she remembers the house and what it looks like- the bathroom, the kitchen , the living room, her auntie’s bedroom with its fancy four poster bed and ornate dressers. She remembers her black and white Huskie dogs, Shasta and Toby. Their sharp, piercing yelp.
Her aunt’s head full of raven-black curly hair. Her beautiful skin. Her smile.
She remembers it all.
Even now, these many years later. That nine year-old girl remembers.
For she is 39 years old now—the same number of years that her auntie was when life was snatched from her hand, replaced by a façade for living that seems to mock and jeer with each passing year. All those years of living life inside a decaying shell, bearing little resemblance to that which was her former beautiful self. She lies tonight in a bed far from mine, mortal life slipping out of her reach- urging her toward the eternal.
And while I do not weep for what’s to come—it is all I can hope for. All we can ever hope to attain. In my feeble mind, I sorrow for what was lost. Those thirty plus years she has lain in a bed and sat in a chair. From one mundane movement to another. Those two activities, the totality of her existence. A prison of sorts- the worst kind, in my view. For she is listless. Immobile. Lifeless. Hands spasmodic at times and at other times, scratching at an eye that is swollen shut. She is growing old. Has been ever since that terrible day. Dying slowly. Dying fast.
And now, death hovers. It is upon her. Waiting: impatient. Wanting to claim that which it thinks is its rightful possession.
But death cannot lay claim to one who belongs to Another. She is His.
Our family got the call today that this might be it. This might be the end. I later called the floor and spoke to a nurse; I asked, “Is she in pain?” A reassuring ‘no’ given so as to ease my fears. I am told: she is peaceful. Calm. And so, after going through the preliminaries, I begin to talk. Talk of the person I remember her to be, back when I was that little girl of eight or nine. Talk about the special aunt I remember. And as I talk, I find myself crying. I do not know this woman on the other end of the line to whom I speak, and yet she listens so patiently to me as I recount memory after memory. Silly little stories, really. A trip to McDonalds and the hamburger proffered. A special occasion for me back then: something I take for granted now. I remember it as a treat.
As I talk, I feel the quiet liberation of emotion come undone within. I feel release.
For I know: she will be going home soon. This life of bondage but a brief interlude in the great expanse that is eternity.
She’s headed for home where she will run without shackles.
She will walk without restrictions.
She will talk, sing, dance, and laugh.
She will live- in ways I cannot even imagine.
And she will know a freedom- a peace, joy and love that I do not yet know. Cannot even begin to imagine in my feeble mind’s eye.
Yet I imagine this: in that coming day, there will be a time when I will hold her hand and I will ask, “Do you remember? Do you remember all you lost back then? The time that was wasted?”
And she will turn to me and express one simple thought: No. Never. I cannot remember.
For all will be forgotten. The misery that is the here and now will be but a blip in time. The pain- gone. The prison and sentence of years to a life of monotony. The thirty years of waiting for freedom. For release. It will seem but a moment. So insignificant. It will all but be forgotten.
And she will take my hand. She’ll smile. And we will run together.