Three very dear friends of mine have passed from this earth in the last few months, all younger than I and after long illnesses. News of the passing of other acquaintances is becoming a regular topic of conversation in my circles of friends. Each one leaves a hole in the fabric of my life, so that sometimes I feel I am unraveling.
Not that I want to make their deaths all about me, you understand.
It's just that sometimes I wonder, Why not me?
Maybe next time it will be me. Or the time after that.
And I think that maybe I should live differently, with an eye to eternity, instead of today. And I want to give away money and be nicer to the annoying survey person on the phone or my husband when he irritates me or the person next to me in line at the supermarket, who reeks of cigarette smoke and is coughing all over me.
On Monday, on a whim, I started to clear out a big pile of newspaper and magazine articles that I have accumulated over the years. Home improvement, gardening, crafts, recipes, and all kinds of useful tips. Most of them were pre-internet, because nowadays a simple bookmark will do the trick. I feel a need to clear out the unimportant, so that when my girls have to decide what to keep and what to toss, they will only be greeted with beautiful and useful things.
Somehow, it doesn't feel morbid, just another way of being prepared.
The book club at our local library read poetry this month instead of fiction. I chose a collection of Mary Oliver's, remembering this poem that impressed me a few years ago. I only read the first few poems, but this one I love, particularly the line, "all my life I was a bride married to amazement."
That's how I want to be.
When Death Comes
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.