There are certain dates I love: 30th September is one of them. It’s that feeling of finishing in order to start again – totally false of course, internally constructed and completely self-fulfilling… Doesn’t stop me loving it, the drawing of a line, the tidying away of summer as we turn our faces to the bright, chill days to come.
For some years I’ve measured my life by dates – it’s how I’ve made sense of things. For instance, I know that today it is 5 years since we got the keys to the house we bought for Sam. That was a big step in the journey with him: it was his home for nearly 38 months, before we moved a hospital bed into the front room so he could die there. After we buried him it was my first task – to clear it out, get it deep-cleaned and painted, ready to put on the market. It sold in June 2015 to a nice young man, which was totally appropriate. He didn’t know its history – it wouldn’t have been fair to burden him with our story. The dead pass on and the living continue.
Another memory, another marker. Will it always be like this? Is it the same for other older people who have let go of the first and second parts of their lives and entered the third age – those who haven’t ‘lost a limb’ as well, but just retired? There is always the choice between looking back and looking forward. When there is less time ahead than behind perhaps one’s stance changes. We all have much to learn from ‘Standing at the crossroads and looking – asking for the good way…’ (Jeremiah 6v16). You might call it learning from your mistakes – a chance to prioritise again, even if that is only by writing a bucket list!
Apart from all that I am proud of my journey. It has been – as my counselling assessor called it last week, ‘One hell of a journey.’ I recognise it has been extraordinary – in the way we made it so public as much as in the things that happened on the way. Above all it is a tale of grace… It is still there, frozen in time on my original blog: when I look at it now I wonder HOW ON EARTH we managed! We were a reality-soap-opera!
And so it appears that this phase now is as much post-traumatic stress as anything else, recovering from the years of anxiety and managing fear and the terrible tension of gradual loss before the final physical death of our son. Our elastic lost its elasticity… But I’ve been improving and now I have given up taking my sleeping tablets. I feel better off them and mostly the night-hours have been bearable. But… last night I really didn’t sleep at all well 😦
Today I am tired. It is more than the disturbed nights, it’s the build-up of the general pace of life and how much we try to cram into the hours of each day, week, month… Yes, I am grateful – this has been a wonderful and busy summer and I could spend October just reflecting on it, enjoying it again, but that’s not how we roll: October is already brim full of new plans and travels!
Yay! life to the full – looking forward and taking every opportunity! Who knows how many more opportunities there will be? There is surely no time to waste when we still have so much seed to sow before we’re done… Is anyone ever really ‘done’ – surely when it comes to it, no-one who is not depressed really wants to stop living. No-one wants to die and most people are afraid of it – so ignore it, avoid it?
I wont let you do that because I have been dying by degrees. That is what change and grief do to us – teach us to surrender, show us we are mere mortals. Sickness does it too – or the death of someone we know. The cold wind of eternity blows by and we shiver, recognising that life is a gift, all we have is gift. It’s a time to ‘stand at the crossroads’ and make some decisions.”Maybe life is curious to see what you would do with the gift of being left alive” (Marc Cohn: Live out the string).
There are always choices to make, because we are limited, none of us can do everything: we are not God. We are programmed to need rest and food – they are such priorities that a lot of people in the world only get as far as meeting those basic needs! Obviously, we are the kind of people who find it difficult to say ‘No’… in fact it is another small death to refuse an opportunity. I know it is not a sin to be busy, but as Jesus counselled Martha, its a bad idea to become exhausted, upset and distracted by many things. I know that in the midst of life and purpose and friends I have to choose wisely – to ‘lie fallow’ for quite a bit longer if I am to regain strength. I need to prioritise rest, BE-ing and ‘the better part’ that Mary chose (Luke 10:41-42)
So we attempt to keep our balance on this cusp, this knife-edge of the year – the September/October divide – remembering the summer that has past, looking to the winter that is on the horizon, recognising there must be winter death in order to fuel summer growth and the rebirth of the year. We are human: body, soul and spirit. We live, love, suffer and die. Some of us get to choose what we do with the time that is given to us – some of us experience joy.
Here’s to life: what is past and what is to come. Let’s live well.