A magenta-orange fireball of sun rises to the east of my kitchen window, transforming the overcast sky to gray, then smoky blue, then a pale pink. Branches of trees cut across the sun’s surface, momentarily making the fire seem tangible; a living, burning entity reaching up into the atmosphere. In just the time it’s taken me to write these lines, the star has clawed his way up the sky, becoming a more usual yellowy-orange, too bright to stare at in wonder any longer. I suddenly remember it is not overcast the sun is rising through but the seemingly eternal pall of smoke from wildfires in states to the north and west of us, all the way to Oregon. The smoke won’t clear until the middle of next week when the weather pattern shifts, the weatherman said on the news last night.
My morning slog through my email shows no response from my insurance agent about the questions I asked him by phone and email yesterday. My lawyer asked me to find out if there is anything in writing in the homeowner’s policy that mentions the circumstances under which liability can be cancelled. I tried to make another appointment to see the lawyer later today but he won’t be in his office again until Monday, and it’s Friday today.
The lawyer sent me out to do the homework of talking to a couple of real estate brokers about the possibility of listing my marital house, making sure to find two who would be willing and able to handle a contentious sale, up to and including an appearance in court. With some luck and a willingness to cooperate this sale won’t be any more difficult than the usual transaction, but then nothing about my divorce or the time since it became law four years ago has resembled “normal.” My ex-husband would rather see me boiled in oil than pocketing any of what might be left of the equity of something we both worked so hard to create.
I am impatient to get moving. All this detail drives me crazy. It feels so unnecessary, so boring, so much covering of my every move and breath just to protect myself from the manipulations of someone I called “husband” for thirty years. I can become so focused on my anxiety around this situation that I forget to live my life today, in the present as much as possible, instead rehashing again and again what might have been but wasn’t in the past.
It is a whole day later as I finish this writing than it was when I began. In the meantime I received a volunteer request from the Hospice for which I volunteer, for the 11th Hour Program. That means as a volunteer you sit with someone for a block of time in the last few hours of their life as they prepare to transition. Volunteers are requested so the person is not alone, even though they may be in a nursing facility or assisted living. Staff or family cannot always be with the person. I chose a block of time in the wee hours of the night.
There is nothing more humbling than sitting with someone in those hours where they hover between life and death. All that you ever knew or thought or experienced around death can arise and pass through your mind. The thing that I find amazing is that there is something very sacred about this time. Each time I have sat with someone I have become convinced that though I might see one thing, like how thin the person might have become, or the fact that they really have very little mind left, or they might appear to be agitated for a time, there is so much more going on that I don’t see.
Last night I wanted to tell the person that there were only a few hours left, that soon all his troubles would be over. I had such a sense of peace in that quiet darkened room even though his roommate snored loudly and I could hear the staff talking now and then in the hall, and the patient himself was agitated. As I rested my hand on his oh-so-thin shoulder I could feel his life coming to a close. I could also sense that at the end of the bed, by his feet, a few people waited. I could not see anything per se, but I knew someone waited.
I thought of my father’s death, where all that last day he stared up into a corner by the ceiling and sometimes talked to his deceased family members. It is as if a doorway opens for a time between here and wherever it is we go. If you doubt there is something more than meets the eye about this existence and you want to experience more, try sitting with someone who is passing.
This morning the air is clear and cool, the sunlight sparkling on everything it touches. My little dog sleeps on his chair on my patio, “cooking in the sun” as I call it, living very much in the moment. My heart and mind are calm, filled with the blessing of being with that man only a few hours ago now. Worries about lawyers and house sales and ex-husbands seem so trivial, so fleeting. I am so grateful for the change in perspective. It opens a whole new world of possibility.