I want to remember so I am writing it down
I want to remember the first night I slept in his room, 6 days before he died. I want to remember how he woke in the night, how I heard his breathing change, how frightened he seemed, wide-eyed and staring into a distance I could not measure and at something I could not see. I want to remember how quickly he settled when I leaned over him and touched him, whispering, “I am here, honey. I am always going to be here now”.
I want to forget all the times he must have been awake in the night and I was not there.
I want to remember how we camped in his room, our beautiful girls, our sweet baby, while new and dear friends brought meals and kindness, how good it felt to be altogether telling stories, taking turns to weep or laugh. How strange it is to think my new friends will never know him, that everyone I have met in the last few years, and everyone I will ever meet will never know him.
I want to remember how staff members hauled heavy furniture around, more than once, more than twice, so I could be comfortable, so I could rest beside him, sleep beside him, slide my hand on top of his chest during long restless nights, and feel the beat of his amazing, strong, insistent heart.
I want to remember the great sigh he took, early one morning, when I told him the girls were coming, would be there soon.
I want to remember his beauty, his skin smooth, his brow un-creased, his constricted limbs stretched long and unclenched, how the medicine that took him away from us and into deep, deep sleep gave ease to his pain and gentled the journey for my weary, brave traveller .
I want to remember that the music that I chose, by chance, to play when I did not know I had just moments left, was a CD made years ago, for us, by Naomi. “Travelling Tunes” she named it and she drew a picture of a VW Westie for the cover. After he left us, we listened, we three who loved him and had just lost him…we listened to We Rise Again by The Rankins. He loved that song. He always said, whenever it played, “I want that at my funeral”. Only he doesn’t want a funeral, he wants something simple and happy, a party. That is what we will try to give him. A party.
I want to remember waking that first morning, and standing on my balcony and looking at the sun on Mount Begbie. I asked him, Are you there? And the answer came back…I’ve gone to Grand Forks but I won’t be long. Your “won’t be long” or my "won't be long” I wanted to know.
I want to remember the morning walk when two eagles soared above the river. I had been weeping over photos and found one I did not remember but that delighted me – two exuberant, aging Lost Boys, one with a cloud of white hair about his head and the other wearing a white hat. They stand, their arms outflung against the sky, atop enormous pinnacles of rock. David and Lincoln on Gimli. And then the eagles, just hours later. Flying free. Together. I prefer my thinking magical.
I want to remember the friends that travelled to be with us, the family that could not… but who made me feel as if they were. I want to remember the touch of a five- year-old who does not like to cuddle, the perfect feel of him as he climbed, of his own volition, into my arms. I want to remember how a tiny girl said, Dance with me, Grandma, and the way she stomped and wiggled and spun while holding my hand and for a moment I forgot to be sad. I want to member that a little boy drew his grandpa and drew him about to jump in a glacial pool. And drew him naked. Of course.
And I want to remember the sound of days upon days of laboured breath punctuated by a baby’s shrieks and chuckles and Patty Cake and Zoom, Zoom, Zoom. I want to remember that this is how it should be, all of it together, beginnings and endings, innocence and experience and I think that for the first time I understand the poetry of William Blake, glimmers of understanding that wink on and off. Maybe I do.
I want to remember the whole, rich, hard mess of this, that the worst moments are the transient ones of feeling-nothing, that the best are in memory and in tears that turn to laughter and in laughter that turns to tears, and nothing is easy, not kindness nor grief nor love nor joy. It is all hard.
And I think, is that the right word? Hard? Hard?
Maybe, it’s work. Work. Yes. It is all work. A lifetime’s work…love, kindness and grief and joy and gratitude. We practise and we practise and it is work.
And what of grace? Is grace a simple, pure, exquisite moment when it is not work, it is not hard?
Grace? In the midst of all the mess? That is as it should be. I think that is as it should be. I think so.
If I pray for anything, it is for eyes to see, for heart to hear the beauty and the thrumming voice of grace. I want to remember… in his living and in his dying… he gave me this. Perfect, ephemeral grace. I want to remember.