Best and Worst

“Katie!!! It’s 7:35. Hurry and get up. My alarm didn’t go off.”

That’s the start of the worst day of my life. My mother’s alarm didn’t go off, which means that my three older sisters and I have to get ready in one bathroom in less than fifteen minutes. Did I mention that I’m the youngest? No rights. I have no rights. I lie in bed for another minute and hear my mother screaming from the kitchen, “You girls can eat an apple or a banana on your way to school. And I guess you’ll just buy lunch.” I hear my sister, Pamela, mumble about how she hates apples AND bananas, and I finally make my way towards the bathroom. Carol has somehow already gotten herself ready and is sitting in the living room reading. Would have been nice if she thought to get the rest of us up, but that’s not Carol. And Sue is laying on her mascara; you’d think she was going out dancing, or something.

“Can I please at least brush my teeth?”, I ask her, and she manages to slide her body over without moving her face from the mirror.

Back in my room, I throw on shorts and a t-shirt and remember that my sandals are outside by the front door. Passing through the living room, I catch a glimpse of the “Today” show and the crazy people in the outside audience are bundled up in hats and scarves and it’s actually snowing. I wonder if I’ll see snow one day.

“Mom, can we go to New York to see snow?”, I ask, forgetting that my mother’s only been awake for fifteen minutes or so and is in such a bad mood.

“Obviously not today, Katie. Can you keep yourself focused, just this one time?  Please?!”.

I roll my eyes.

My mom’s really not so bad and sometimes I feel bad for her. Even I can see that she’s under a lot of pressure. My sisters – and I, I guess – are always asking her for things or to take us somewhere or for money. And now we’re even asking her to help with homework, which used to be my Dad’s job. But since he’s been so sick he hasn’t been able to help. So it all falls on her. I can see worry all over her face a lot of the time, but she tries to stay positive. When we were little, she would always take us to the bookstore in town and tell us that one day there’d be a book there by her.  She hasn’t done that in a long time.  It’ll be great when Dad gets better so that he can help out. I liked it better when it was the two of them. At least Dad knew how to make Mom laugh. Sometimes he’d help her with the dishes and they’d sing the goofiest songs. My sisters and I would act like we hated it (“Oh, not this again. . .”) but I loved it.

“Shotgun!” “Window!” I scream “window”, too, but my sisters, practically in unison say that they’re all taken.  I’m in the middle. Again.  I’m always in the middle.  As we’re pulling out, I remember that I don’t have my soccer ball.  I really don’t want to bring it up, since we’re late and all, but then think of Coach Jen and how badly I want to start this season and I scream out “Wait!”, which is followed by total chaos. My sisters start complaining and I could have sworn that my mother was going to have a breakdown. Now I understand why.

I’ve hit the snooze button four times and now we’re going to be late. I just can’t face this day. Last night we decided – he decided – that it was time to tell the girls. That waiting any longer wasn’t really fair to them. I’ve been torn. On the one hand, it’s been exhausting trying to keep up this façade that he’d be getting better. That soon enough he’d be able to help out again. It’ll be easier, I guess, to be able to be honest. But then I start to imagine actually telling them, seeing their faces as they try to understand that their father is dying. That he won’t be there to watch them grow up, to walk them down the aisle. My God, he won’t even be here to see them graduate from high school. It’s just too much. But I can’t cry – not right now.  The rule I made for myself is that I cry only at night and only after Dan’s sleeping. That works some of the time, except for the nights that Dan cries first.

Dan and I have been together since high school. And other than that crazy year of college, we’ve been together ever since. Funny how that worked – I convinced him that we really needed to date other people, just to be sure we were right for each other.  He was completely opposed to the idea and we had one of our few really big fights over it. I won the fight, sort of.  He jumped into dating and was having fun with it and I just missed him. After many miserable, lonely nights, a few pleasant evenings with reasonably nice guys, and only one wild, passionate night with a total heartbreaker, I called Dan and told him I had changed my mind.  He sort of laughed and proposed over Thanksgiving vacation three weeks later. He said he had always known.

And somehow, it’s almost twenty years later now. Four daughters, and Dan has the teaching position of his dreams, teaching the classes that he loves and enough time for research and lecturing around the world on the latest and greatest microchips – or something like that. I can’t really keep up or remotely understand what he’s working on most of the time.

Then a year ago, almost to the day because Dan always scheduled his physicals for the beginning of the year – it was just like one of those horrible made-for-TV movies. Dan mentions the headaches he’s having. ‘Let’s run some tests’. He gets called back a week later because there’s something unusual. “We don’t want to scare you, but. . .”. More tests and more tests. Then the call. “I have your husband’s test results and I’d like to give them to him, to both of you, in person”. They gave him about a year to live. Just like that. A year. It’s impossible to describe the waves of emotion I felt in that moment.  Everything from terror, to rage, to – and I feel ashamed to admit this – almost an exhilaration. Maybe on some level I was aware of becoming a main character in a tragic story and, even as it took the breath out of me, I felt somehow energized.

At first, Dan and I had trouble looking into each other’s eyes. For the first time in our lives, I felt shy with him. I didn’t know how to talk to a dying man. My young, vibrant husband: a dying man. We decided to go out for dinner because we needed time to talk before facing the kids. We were near our favorite little French café, where we’ve celebrated many birthdays and special occasions. I remember thinking how odd this was, how surreal. Dan started to order a nice bottle of wine, then stopped himself and ordered my favorite champagne. We didn’t say a word to each other and somehow time slowed to a crawl and my senses were heightened. The cold glass on my fingertips. The ice water on my lips. I remember breaking a piece of warm, seeded bread and watching the steam rise from it as I held it in my hands. I remember holding the cold butter knife, watching the butter melt into that bread. I remember biting into and chewing the sweet, doughy bread. And I remember feeling, knowing that Dan was watching me. And for one of the first times in our lives, I realized that it was impossible for me to imagine what he was thinking or feeling. That he had crossed a fundamentally important line in the sand and I couldn’t be on his team any more.

The waiter set up the champagne bucket, very ceremoniously. We were obviously celebrating something. He brought the bottle of champagne, wrapped in fine linen. And the silence at our table was broken by the “pop” of the champagne – and Dan’s and my hysterical laughter. It was as if on cue. Laugh-until-you-cry laughter. Laughing so hard that you can’t speak, can hardly catch your breath. The kind that, just when things start to settle, you catch each other’s eye and start all over again, even though your belly’s aching and your face hurts from it. The waiters and people at the tables around us joined in. I thought some people were looking at us strangely, but I can’t be sure if that was true or if the strangeness was just the place that I was looking through. Finally, once things settled, Dan looked at me and said, matter-of-factly, “I’m going to die”. And we talked about it.

There are parts of that dinner that are so clearly imprinted in my mind’s eye. I can actually remember the exact dialogue that we had, as if it was part of a movie script that I’ve read repeatedly.  I’ve written about that night, but only to myself, in the privacy of my journals. And one day I may go back to see if any of those ramblings are of value. I dreamed that I would one day write a book. I’ve always been something of an observer of humanity, and fascinated by people. And maybe that’s the reason that I remember that evening so incredibly well – because a part of me was watching. Watching and impressed by our capacity – by the human capacity – to adapt, to nearly any circumstance. My husband and I had a lovely dinner and talked about, to the extent that we could even imagine in that moment, the process of his dying – how we’d get from here to there, my life once he was gone, how to best support our daughters through this new situation.  We expressed no more emotion than if we had been discussing “The Titanic”, or some other tragic movie that’s lost its ability to touch after so many repeated viewings.  And while we have the capacity to adapt, to rise above, in this year I’ve also been reminded countless times of the fragility of being human – and mostly my own.

So now I’ve given myself less than twenty minutes to get myself and four teenagers out the door. I hit the floor running – thankful that Dan is sleeping peacefully in the room next door, followed by the pang of realization that I will never sleep with him again. That’s now part of my morning routine: gratitude followed by pain. It made sense. Because of the pain he’s in, he’d been having trouble getting himself comfortable and he was worried about bothering me, which made him more uncomfortable. So I started sleeping in the guest room. But I didn’t realize the finality of my move. I didn’t get to savor our last night together. I don’t even remember our last night together. I sometimes had similar regrets when my daughters were babies. There’s so much focus on their ‘firsts’ – first time rolling over, sitting up, first step and so on. But I wanted to savor the lasts – instead of realizing, from one day to the next, it seems, that my baby is no longer a baby.

The next few minutes are a blur. I’m short with the girls and they’re as understanding as worried teenagers can be – wanting to be “normal” and focus on the things that their friends are focusing on. But watching their healthy father whither down to skin and bones has made it difficult to maintain that illusion that their high school problems are so serious. They’ve had a harsh reality shake them out of that possibility.  I finally get them all in the car – and the always-nearly-forgotten soccer ball – and we head off to school.

 

The bell’s about to ring, thank God. Miss “P”, as she tells us to call her, is the most boring teacher ever. And ‘Algebra I’ has no point to it.  I’ll never use this information and don’t get why they want me to learn it. But Phys.Ed. is next and it’s really nice out so we’ll be in the pool today. Hopefully we’ll get to play a game instead of swimming laps – but even swimming laps is better than taking notes about exercise, which is something that we do pretty often. Believe it or not, our P.E. teacher weighs about 350 pounds. I’m not kidding. So she can’t really demonstrate physical activity. Come to think of it, I’m glad she doesn’t try. My school is one of only two schools in South Florida that has an outdoor pool right on campus. This is something we’re reminded of all the time, and that we should ‘say a prayer of gratitude’. It’s a Catholic school so they find lots of occasions for praying. What’s funny to me is that each one of our teachers, nuns and not-nuns, has their own idea of who should be thanked or prayed to. “The Blessed Mother” or “Christ our Lord” or “Jesus” or God himself, if God is a ‘himself’. I’m confused about all this.  And, if the truth be told, I’m a little annoyed at God and the whole committee right now because all the praying and ‘special intention-ing’ that I’ve been doing, and even the whole school has been doing, isn’t getting my Dad any healthier any faster. One nun told me recently that “God works in mysterious ways” and it made me mad, but it sure is true. One other thing about my school, it’s all girls. No boys. It really sucks.

My least favorite part about our school pool is that we have to wear bathing caps. We’ve all gotten over making fun of each other for how absolutely stupid we look in them. Even the really pretty girls in our class look hideous in a bathing cap. I hate putting it on, though. My hair is almost to my waist now and it’s just not easy to push it all into a tiny space that’s painfully squeezing my face. But once I jump in the pool, it’s all worth it.

We’re playing water polo today. It’s fun and I guess a good workout because you spend a lot of time treading water and screaming for the ball, or swimming to it if it’s nearby. At least that’s what I do. Some girls just stand at the shallow end but that’s really boring. So we get started and the ball gets passed around some. Our teacher sits on the side and every now and then she blows her whistle, for no reason that we can figure out. But we stop the game and wait until she tells us we can start again. If not, we’ve ended up sitting on the side of the pool for the whole class. Which was so completely random. Some grownups are so annoying.

The ball’s been in the shallow end almost the whole time. Finally, someone swims it out towards where I’ve been treading water for a long time. I decide I’m going to get the ball. Ann is swimming sort of dog-paddle style, with one hand on the ball as she pushes it along.  She’s small. Even her hands are small. I shouldn’t have any trouble taking the ball away from her. It’s time for my move and I dive under water and come up next to her and make a grab for it. But she sees me coming and she grabs it too. We’ve somehow both gotten a good hold on the ball and I know that I can get it from her. So we spin around in the water, pulling at the ball, trying to yank it away from each other. I really want this ball. I’m blind to anything else. In the distance, I hear the whistle blowing and blowing and I finally stop. Someone’s helping Ann to the side of the pool and asking her if she’s alright. I don’t really get what’s going on. Then Ann, still breathless, starts screaming at me.

“What is wrong with you? I almost drowned! It’s only a stupid game, Katie. You’re not supposed to kill anybody over it.”

I keep to myself for the rest of the game. I don’t even know if I said I was sorry. I try to remember specifically what I did to make her almost drown and all I can feel is a blackness. “I could have killed her”, I think. I have the realization that I’m capable of killing, not even on purpose, and then I think about my Dad and how people’s comments to me about him recently are starting to scare me. He’s been sick for too long and what nobody is saying is that they don’t think he’ll get better. Which would mean he might .  .   . die. And almost drowning Ann wakes me up to that, the dark cloud that’s been lurking just beyond my thoughts.

I can’t wait to get home. I need to see my Dad.

Dan’s able to sit in his recliner for a few hours today and he tells me that he wants me to tell the girls myself and I call him a coward and he says that he’s thought a lot about it and wants it to be as easy as possible for them and can’t figure it out. He says that this is what keeps him awake the most at night. This and. . . but he doesn’t finish the thought. We go round and round about it and I can tell that he’s exhausted, but I can’t seem to stop myself. I finally notice that he’s wincing in pain with every word that I speak but he wants to be there for me. And I think that’s why I can’t stop: I need him to be there for me and he can’t be. I’m starting to realize that I’m standing in quick sand. That nothing is firm or known to me any more. The hardest thing to admit to myself, as I sit sipping my ‘stress relief’ tea, is that it’s already happened. He’s already gone. He – Dan – my husband, lover, father of my children, the man that shared half (at least half, if not more) of the home responsibilities, is gone. I hadn’t let myself know. I sit awhile, gazing out the kitchen window. I notice the time. I really have to go pick up the girls but I’m dreading it. I catch a glimpse of a cardinal perched on the orchid tree in the yard. The red catches my eye.

I pick Katie up first and as she’s getting in the car, Carol calls and tells me that Pamela and Sue have club meetings they forgot to tell me about and that they asked her to call, and told her she was totally selfish if she made me drive to the school twice. So I tell her she’s not selfish and ask her if she minds waiting and she says she’s fine and has her book to read.

“How was soccer, Sweetheart?”

“Fine”.

“Did everything go alright? You seem, I don’t know, upset or something”.

“It was fine, Mom”.

Katie is usually my talkative one. She’s twelve and is still willing to fill me in on what’s going on with her. I know that will probably stop soon. I want to keep asking every kind of question but the years have taught me that I’m much better off waiting. We continue driving in silence.  There’s a lot of traffic. Season is definitely in full swing. Even though there’s much more available during season, as far as entertainment and art and things to do, I miss our sleepy summer town. It’s like living in two different places without moving.

“Dad’s dying, isn’t he?”

I gasp. I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach. And then I feel so stupid. Of course they already know. They’re not blind or ignorant. And I start to sob, so much that I have to find a place to pull over. Katie’s crying too. We’re finally parked in a ‘Publix’ parking lot and I reach over and hug my baby girl, who is not at all a baby anymore. I hear myself saying, over and over again, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry”.

We finally stop crying and sit for awhile, watching the shoppers with their full carts. A few of the bag boys are out in the far end of the parking lot collecting carts that have been left everywhere. A very old couple walks slowly past us in front of the car. I take a deep breath.

“Why didn’t you just tell us?”

She sounds partly angry and partly pleading.

“We, Dad and I, have been trying to figure out how we could make it as easy for you as possible. We really haven’t known what to do”.

Katie’s quiet for a time and I start hoping for her to say something, even if it’s an explosion.

“Are we going to sit here all day?  I want to go home.”

Her words are crisp, almost cutting, and she’s not going to give me any more. No more clues as to what’s spinning through her head. I hold back my own cutting words: ‘Do you think this is easy for me? You have your whole life ahead of you and you still have me. Your life is hardly going to change. How about mine? I’ll be left with all of the responsibilities. I’m left with everything.’ But I quickly lose steam. The flash of anger is replaced by concern, and a blanket of sadness. I guess I’m lost in my thoughts because I start to move through the stop sign and have to stop suddenly. A gray haired man is screaming at me to watch where I’m going, and he points to his feeble wife who he’s helping to support.  They walk slowly across the street. “Grow old with me, the best is yet to be”. I used to love that quote.

“How long?”

Katie is speaking to me, after all. But I don’t want to answer. Not that question.

“Mom, how long?”

We’re pulling into our driveway now. Thank God. I was starting to worry that I’d get us killed by the way I was driving. I’ve never had trouble focusing like this before.

“Probably months, Sweetie. We don’t really know for sure. They’re trying different medications, different plans, but they’re vague with their answers. It’s terribly frustrating”.

Katie just stares out the windshield. Her whole body is tense. Her eyes look glassy but she hasn’t shed a tear. I reach out to touch her and for an instant she looks me in the eyes, then turns away and gets out of the car. I sit in the car and watch her walk slowly, heavily, into the house. And I wonder how long it will be before her bounce is back, her enthusiasm and energy.

I feel an unspoken moan inside of me when I think I have three more of these conversations to get through, and Dan, waiting to hear how it’s gone. Because as much as his body is shrinking and he’s haunted by constant pain, his mind and his compassionate heart are as sharp and as clear as they have ever been.

 

I walk into my room and drop all my stuff. I want to slam the door but I don’t want to bother Dad. And I want to talk with him but I don’t know what to say. I’m scared to talk with him. I feel scared to see him. I’m scared of my Dad. The thought shocks me. And a feeling of heaviness comes over me. This will never go away. This will never get better. I’ll never have Dad again: Dad helping with homework. Dad watching my soccer games. Dad letting me stand on his feet while he dances me around the living room. I fall onto my bed and start to cry. Then I’m sobbing, into my pillow so no one will hear me, especially not Dad.

I guess hours have gone by and I’ve just been laying here. For awhile I stared at the pictures on my bulletin board. I have a few pictures of my family and I try to imagine them without him. I try to imagine all different things without him. Then I get mad at myself because he’s not even dead yet. I look out the window for awhile. I’m thinking but not thinking. I remember the thing with Ann in the pool and it makes me feel sick. And I wonder if other people realized how I was, how awful I was.

Carol comes into my room and tells me dinner’s about ready. Her eyes are really red, so she knows. My sisters must all know. This is so weird. And it’s so stupid because we’ve all known, but we acted like we didn’t. It doesn’t make sense that pretending would be easier. But I’d take yesterday back in a heartbeat.

When I get to the dining room, my Dad is sitting there in a wheelchair and he’s got a big smile on his face. His face looks mostly the same, but his body has shrunken and caved in.

“Check out my new wheels!”

And I laugh way more than makes sense and go over to give him a kiss. I want to hug him. Well, what I really want is for him to hug me. But as I’m leaning down to kiss him, he holds one of my hands in his and touches my cheek with his other hand and looks right into my eyes. I think my heart will just explode. I love him so much.

We all sit down at the table and everyone’s nervous and chatty. We’re all very polite about passing the food, which is not like us on a regular day. Once we’ve all served ourselves and are about to eat, my Dad says, as he always does: “The blessing, Mom”.

And I’m happy. He’s my Dad and he’s doing what he always does. For a moment, nothing’s changed. Then I have a wave of panic, that my mother might take this opportunity to say a big heavy prayer about everything and I don’t think I can handle that right now. I’m not breathing. I’ve stopped breathing.

“Bless our family and our food. Thank you, God. Amen”.

We all join in the ‘Amen’ as we always do. Mom wants things to be normal, too.

I’m standing over the sink now, doing the dishes. The girls are all helping around the kitchen. Usually the minute we finish eating, everyone scatters to their rooms or wherever, anxious to get to the next thing. Tonight no one wants dinner to end.

Dan was great. I’m sure all that effort will take a toll on him but I’m so grateful because the girls really needed him, the one they know and love. He is incredibly strong and checked in with each of them. He’s still been able to keep up with them, with their activities and interests, even with pain, medication and a tumor to deal with. I don’t feel like I can keep it all straight a lot of the time. But I guess that everything else has dropped away for him. I can’t remember because there are so many other things taking up room, things like schedules and carpools and grocery lists and lists of people I have to call, which reminds me that I didn’t call the handyman, again. I’m scrubbing at the baking dish now wondering what really is important. Wondering if it’s worth forgetting about what’s happening in each of my daughter’s lives so that I can remember to pay the bills and do the laundry. But it’s all important.

“Wow, Mom, you’re really goin’ at it with that ‘Brillo’!”

It’s Sue and she’s standing next to me, holding a sponge and a dirty serving spoon. The other girls are standing around the kitchen, trying to look like they’re doing something, but they’ve been looking at me, I guess, for some time. We’re awkward with each other, not really knowing what to say. I want to tell them that everything’s going to be alright but I know that I won’t sound convincing if I try. So I focus on how much I love them and how much their father loves them, and go back to scrubbing the dishes.

 

I remember when I was in first grade there was a girl in my class whose mother died. We kept journals at the time and Mrs. Walters called on her to read her journal and she read, ‘I went to my mother’s funeral on Saturday.  .  . ‘. I didn’t really get it but we could tell that the teachers were really touched by it. We all clapped when she finished reading.

I went to my father’s funeral this morning.

It’s all happened so fast. He died the same day that I found out, officially, that he was dying. Sometime in the night he just died. The doctors think it was his medication and that it happens in only a very small percentage of cases, etc. etc. We thought it was because he pushed himself too hard to be there for us and pretend that everything was fine for one last dinner. I overheard Mom crying to a friend that she thinks that’s why she didn’t want to tell us; that somehow she knew that that was what was keeping him alive. Once the girls were taken care of (as if!), he felt free to go. And she said to her friend that it was very strange to see him and realize that dying was preferable; that he seemed ready to go and that she had felt jealous of death.

But today has been a really strange day. I have a friend whose family plays ‘best and worst’ every night at dinner time. Each person takes a turn to talk about the best and the worst things that happened that day. And when there are guests over, they get to play too.  I like it.

So “worst”: my Dad’s funeral. I don’t think any explanation is needed.

But there’s actually a ‘best’. On the drive home from the funeral, it was just us – my sisters and my Mom. It was completely silent the whole way. When we turned onto our street, I don’t know if it was my imagination but it seemed like my Mom was driving really slow, and I started to feel the apprehension that she must have been feeling. That it’s just us now. We turned into the driveway and there was a bright red cardinal standing in the middle of the driveway. My Mom stopped the car and it didn’t move.

“Why are we sitting here?”

Carol had been looking down and hadn’t seen the cardinal yet. The rest of us were staring at it.

Once he was sure that he had our full attention, he flew to a nearby tree and stood on a low branch. Now I know that birds can’t point, but somehow he drew our attention to his nest on a nearby branch and, in it, there were three little heads with their beaks reaching up to be fed.

I’ve already said that I’m confused about the whole God-thing. But in that moment, I remembered Sister Margaret, who starts every Religion class with a prayer:

“Lord, give me your eyes to see with,

Your ears to hear with,

Your voice to speak with,

Your heart to love with,

And your mind to understand with,

So that we may love you, love ourselves and love others

As You want us to.”

And she often adds: “God speaks to us through Nature. Notice the support of the Universe and the love of God in all that you see”.

We finally pulled up and started getting out of the car.  Pam and Sue were at the door first and there was a big box sitting there, like the ones we got from the liquor store when we were packing things up for the school garage sale. I guessed somebody who was coming over for the luncheon was wanting to drown their sorrows. I had heard that grown-ups do that. Then Pam and Sue looked into the box and, at the same time, gave a long, high-pitched “Oh” and had smiles on their faces. Carol walked over and did the same thing. And I guess I did too. There’s something about kittens that makes it impossible not to ‘ooh and ah’ around them.

We carried the box inside and were kind of looking to see what Mom’s reaction would be. Pam reached in and pulled the two kitties out and put them on the floor next to each other. Pirate, as he came to be called, bounced straight over to my Mom’s feet and pounced on her, if you can call it a pounce, then lost his balance and rolled off her foot, then found his way back to standing and looked at her, as if to say, “Did you see what I did!?” We named him Pirate because he’s all black, except for a white patch over his eye. His sister we named Princess, because she clearly is one.

We spent the first hour home after my father’s funeral sitting in a circle on the floor in the living room while the kittens ran, played, did tricks, wrestled. We couldn’t help but smile and even laugh a few times. We laughed, within an hour of my Dad’s funeral – something I was afraid I’d never be able to do again.

It reminds me of something my Nana said once. Nana was my babysitter and her name was Nancy. The first time she came to meet my parents, she had one of her grandchildren with her and I heard him call her Nana. I loved Nana the minute I saw her. She was Jamaican and her words sounded like a song to me. They told me to call her Nancy and I pretended I couldn’t say it. I wanted her to be my Nana. Nana knew it and gave me a knowing wink and a squeeze.

A few years ago, my Mom had told Nana that Dad’s boss had died suddenly and wasn’t it just tragic and she went on some about it. Nana looked at her and said, “Sweetie, we dying all the time. We just pretend we not. We pretend in our own head, we pretend for each other. But we dying all the time.”

My Nana is the most alive person I know. I guess dying is part of living?  Or is it that part of living is dying? I know now that I can have really happy moments in the middle of the saddest day of my life, and really sad moments in the middle of really happy times. I don’t even really know what I’m talking about. But I’m glad that there really can be a ‘best’ in the midst of my ‘worst’.

         I understand now why I didn’t want to tell the girls. Because once that was done, he was free to go. I could sense that he wanted permission to go but I wasn’t willing to give it to him. I’m angry at him. And I’m jealous: he’s resting and what I’m looking at feels like a lot of work right now. But I’m glad that dying isn’t scary, or doesn’t have to be, for the one going. In hindsight, Dan had one foot out the door for the past few months. He was simply willing himself to keep on living. Which is an interesting way to say it because I sense that Dan is more alive now than he’s ever been. I feel his presence more now, since he died.

         I wonder if it was him in the cardinal. A cardinal blocked my driveway when I got home from the funeral. A bird, standing in the driveway. Then he flew to a branch by his nest and I had the feeling that Dan was telling me to keep feeding my babies, to focus on the next simple step and things would keep falling into place. Then we played with two new kittens that someone left for us and by God if that cute little black one didn’t come darting straight at me. He wanted to play and wanted to let me know that I still could. So our soul leaves our body and jumps into birds and kittens? What would Father Joe say to that?! Maybe the lines, the things that divide us, aren’t as solid as I think they are. Everything is energy. That’s what I’ve heard said.

         I guess I’ll go feed the children.


One Response to “Best and Worst”

  1. I am moved to tears. My husband is very sick. My life has changed overnight. I want so much to be unafraid…and, happy.

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