As I write this post, I am thankful that September has arrived in Michigan and gifted us with a lovely late summer day. I’ve planted mums in the flower garden by the mailbox, planned a barbecue for the holiday weekend, and yet I can’t help but think about the fragility of life this afternoon. My daughter texted me last night that her and her partner have to put one of their beloved cats to sleep this week. A friend called to tell me one of the week old baby twins born to the son of another close friend is gravely ill, a blogging buddy has been asking for prayers for neighbors who lost their five year old daughter in a backyard swimming pool accident, and this month is bittersweet for me and my family as we will mark the one year anniversary of my mother’s passing. On Sunday, when I asked my father if he wanted to do anything on the 30th to commemorate the day, he silently shook his head and I suddenly felt how alone he has been for the past twelve months. My sister and I have made an effort to see my dad every week, and we talk about my mother often, but still, after fifty-one years of marriage I know there aren’t enough dinners or walks down memory lane that can change the fact that his wife is no longer sitting on the couch across from him reading her books with her little dog Ellie curled up on her lap.
Several weeks ago my dad woke up at dawn. When he looked toward the foot of his bed he saw the misty outline of a woman standing there, just looking at him. She was wearing a long white dress and he couldn’t make out her face. All at once, his two dogs who sleep in the bed with him, woke up and began barking in the direction of the ethereal figure. After a minute or two, my dad got up and took the dogs outside to try and settle them down. When he went back into his bedroom the woman was gone but the dogs were still nervous and it took them quite some time to go back to sleep. My dad said he would have thought it was a dream if the dogs hadn’t apparently seen the woman too. He said he assumed the figure was my mother.
So I don’t know, maybe my father isn’t alone. Maybe all the tender moments shared, all the joy filled beginnings and the sad goodbyes, all the threads of love and longing and regret that join each life to another, maybe all these things really do survive long after we are gone. And just maybe, if you are very lucky like my father, when you feel most alone they will gather together in the haze of the early morning light and give you peace. That is my wish for my friends and family on this bright September day, peace in knowing that it doesn’t matter if a life is measured in days or in years, in good health or in trial, each life is worthy and perfect just as it is – beginning and ending with one small breath.