Last night I went to bed early, not because I was physically tired, but because I was emotionally worn out. I didn’t have energy for anything other than the oblivion of a warm bed. But I did not sleep soundly as I have the past several nights. Instead I was restless, thinking often of my father who is in the slow process of dying.
Eventually I gave up all notions of sleeping and allowed myself to succumb to the sadness that pervaded my being. I wasn’t feeling sad so much about his imminent passing, although I know that will be hard, but I was feeling worried about his level of physical and emotional comfort.
Eventually I arose, got dressed, wrapped a blanket around me and sat in a chair. At some point I got the inspiration to take a walk outside. In the summer, this would have been an easier task, but in the winter it involved putting on several layers of clothing and deciding where I could walk. The land was still coated with the snow and crunchy ice of the last winter’s storm. And I did not have with me any boots. Nevertheless, I ventured forth.
I was surprised to find it snowing. I had heard something about the potential arrival of more snow, but listening to weather reports has not been high on my list of priorities recently. I looked at the tiny falling snowflakes lit by the streetlight at the end of our drive and felt a small shimmer of joy.
I set forth down the long crispy-crunchy driveway. I turned right to walk on the street that over the last forty years has become extremely busy but was now blessedly quiet, as it once was in my childhood. I walked past two homes and turned right into the parking lot of the elementary school I’d once attended. I no longer felt the need to walk. Instead I simply stood and gazed at the falling snow.
I felt serenity steal over me. Alone in my room I had felt the weight of sorrow, but outside I was reminded that snow, like grace, falls on all of us – the well and the unwell, the caring and the indifferent, the human, the flora, and the fauna. We are each and all intricately connected.
I began to notice the sound of hundreds of brown crackled pin oak leaves, still attached to their mother tree and tap-tapping against one another in a small cool breeze. I heard the tiny comforting sound of hundreds of thousands of snowflakes landing upon those sweet leaves. (Everything was beginning to feel sweet to me in those tender dark-of-the-night moments.)
Grace. The beauty of the natural world was a balm to my spirit. Here it lay, just outside the confines of the house I’d been trying to find shelter in. And all I had to do was venture forth, out of my own little world.
I pray that when I see Dad in a few hours, I can impart to him a bit of the serenity I was blessed to feel tonight.
I am feeling grateful. Grateful for all of it – the painful beauty of dying, the serene beauty of the snow, the beauty of life in all its myriad permutations. Simultaneously in this one house is a woman married for fifty-six years to a beloved husband who is dying, a niece who is quietly anticipating the arrival of her first child, and another niece in the glow of love to a man she will be marrying on the new year. Life and death are all intertwined. And the presence of death is what makes life all the more sweet.
Blessed be, everyone.