Death and the Present

This week I have been challenged to stay in the present.  Here is why.

Sixteen years ago today was the eve of my mother’s 85th birthday, and as I went to bed that night at 10:00 p.m., I thought of her.  I got under the covers, but after a couple of minutes, got back up and stood by the side of my bed and prayed that my mother would know peace and freedom from fear.  I climbed back into bed, and as I fell asleep, I resolved to go to town the next morning and borrow a friend’s phone to call her and wish her a Happy 85th Birthday.  The next day, I went in to town and called the number I had for her.  The woman who cared for her answered the phone.  When I asked to speak to my mother in order to wish her a happy birthday, she said, “Oh Tina, your mother died last night at 8:00 p.m.  I am so sorry!”  I was shocked.  How could this be?

None of my family in California, where my mother also lived, had called to tell me she had been in the hospital with pneumonia and had come home to die.  She had signed the papers, much earlier, refusing life support, and had been home for four days in a coma.  To this day, I cannot fathom how someone failed to inform me of my mother’s well being, or lack thereof.  The only consolation I have is realizing how much of a connection I actually had with my mother.  I must have known, from the unseen, intangible reality of spirit that she was leaving.  Otherwise, how is it I would have been praying for her at the exact moment she passed?

This week I learned of the sudden death of a friend I have not seen in years.  She had a heart attack last Tuesday as she was driving.  Subsequently, she had a car accident and did not survive.  Her four children must be in shock, as are her closest friends.  She and I were just acquaintances, but I always appreciated her friendly nature whenever she greeted me.  I spent this week musing on how short a life can be, how one never knows the future.

Last night, as I drove back in the dark from Harrison, it was taking longer due to the mist and fog.  At one point, as I was climbing a steep hill, I was suddenly aware that I did not know where I was.  I knew I was on the road I normally travel, but for an instant, I did not recognize the locale.  I could have been anywhere.  It was like a time warp, where time was gone, and I was hovering in space for a second.  It felt as though I could be going forward or backward, but for that instant, it was as though I was not moving at all.  Of course, the car kept going forward, and the moment passed, but in that instant, I had a glimpse of timelessness.  It was a moment that felt chock full of potential, and all was unknown.  When I snapped back into my awareness of where I was, I continued on home with the most bizarre sensation that I could have just left, now!  I was glad to turn into the drive that leads a mile down through the forest to my cabin.  My dogs were happy to see me.  It was good to get home.

The cool, damp day has been quiet, reminiscent of what is ahead with the coming of winter.  Winter is usually a time spent very much alone, just trying to keep wood accessible for burning, the water line empty, and plenty of water stored inside the house, to keep it from freezing.  The early setting of the sun makes for long evenings sitting with a book, if the battery bank has enough energy stored, and then at least eight hours of sleeping.  It can be cozy, or it can be horrible, depending on where I allow my thoughts to go.  I have learned to pay attention, do what must be done, and ride out the long, quiet, cold nights.

As I sat writing, I heard a vehicle pull up.  It was a man I know who lives in this area.  He has stopped by before, on his way to feed his cows he keeps in a pasture about a mile from here.  He said he had not seen me lately and wondered if I was still alive.  We sat outside for a while and visited.  He is another solitary person, who works all of the time and spends most of his days alone.  We talked about the chores entailed with living out here and he was surprised to hear me say, “I need a man to help me do some things.”  He said I was the first woman he had heard say those words in a long time.  He told me usually the women he knows say, “I don’t need anybody!”  He said, “You need a handyman.”

As we sat there, I understood how he and I have some things in common:  we both choose to live as we do, and we have few, if any, expectations of others to do anything for us.  To have another stop by and share a few minutes of simple, easy conversation is gratifying. It is not anything earth shaking.  It is just an unexpected break in an ordinary day.  As he left, he said he would come by again some time and see if I would like to go with him on his cow-feeding chore.  I said that would be okay.  Around here, it is always good to have at least a bit of a clue as to how to help with something, if ever the time comes when one might need some assistance.  Besides, as short as life is, it is good to know someone out there also needs a little bit of an exchange.

Maybe this coming winter will not be as full of the desolation blues as in the past.  Maybe I will dare invite a neighbor other than Pope over for supper.

Meanwhile, I live in the present, and what is left of the day calls to me.

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9 Responses to Death and the Present

  1. Sampatti says:

    As I said yesterday, Tina, you write so beautifully! No exaggeration here. I mean it. You create a mood that is so powerful , it goes right to the heart. Did you know that Miri and I had tickets to the San Francisco Symphony while Mother was convalescing and I considered not going to the city but driving to be with her instead. So I asked her, psychically, what she would prefer and the immediate answer I got was that we should go to the symphony! So we took Bart to the city and walked to the theater, only to discover that I had the wrong date for the symphony and there was none on that evening. As we waited for the train at Bart to return home I looked at the clock and it was 8pm , thinking with sadness that we could have been with Mother instead.
    It was a shock to learn that she left her body at exactly that moment that I looked at the clock and was thinking about her. Leonora said that Mother was never left alone, but she moved on at the exact moment that Leonora had to leave the room for some small errand. I am sorry that we didn’t think to contact you, but I guess I assumed Pepi would tell you what was happening. What you might be interested to know is that Mother had the sweetest smile on her face after she left, truly blissful!
    Thank you for sharing that lovely story.

  2. Maureen Johnston says:

    Beautiful post, Tina. You reminded me how connected we all are to our mothers. I am still grieving over the loss of my mother last winter. She died, peacefully in the home we shared, after a short illness, at the age of 88. I am grateful to have had her in my life for such a long time, and miss her terribly. We need to treasure the time that we have with our loved ones.

    • admin says:

      So happy to hear from you Maureen! I know, I remember when your mother passed. I did not know how to write to you, but my thoughts were with you. It is so true..our time here together is to be cherished. Big, big hug!

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