It’s almost the end of March and the moon hangs full in the eastern sky as I drive home tonight. There is some humidity and it has been warm today compared to earlier in the week, so the moon is murky behind the damp film of moisture, and pieces and streaks of gray clouds are backlit here and there. I enter my house through my garage, walk across the kitchen and out the door to the little patio, the better to continue staring at the beautiful light. There are stars, too, but they are harder to see not only because of the moon but also the fact that my little subdivision is getting built up and there is more light pollution to compete with the dark.
This coming Sunday is Easter, a time of resurrection not only of Jesus Christ but of the Earth herself here in the Northern Hemisphere as we supposedly shift into spring and longer days and the advent of the first flowers and leaves and the grass greening up. Easter is early this year but I am hoping we have a bit of rain or snow to slow what is promising to be another year of drought.
My children have moved into adulthood but I still go out and buy an impossible amount of sweets and jelly beans and plastic eggs to fill with chocolate so I can make them Easter baskets. My daughter can feed it to her boyfriend’s family and his younger siblings the way she used to feed the candy to her roommates when I brought a basket to her house while she was still in college. My son is a little different. He is 4 ½ years younger than his sister. He will be 22 in May.
He came to my house before he went to work today because I had to get him to sign a legal paper. I fed him lunch and gave him his Easter basket. “I know you are a man, now,” I say to him with a smile, “but it is still my pleasure to give a basket of candy to my disappeared little boy.” I say things like that in hopes that he will hear how much I miss that little boy at the same time I am proud of the young man before me. I am pulling his leg, in effect, though there is truth in the emotion I express.
He surprises me and responds, “Not quite, Mom. Not quite all grown up. I’ll eat it.” A moment of sentiment seems to hang between us.
“If you don’t want all that candy, you can bring that to work and let everyone inhale it for you,” I say.
The sentiment disappears in a second as my son looks at me with disbelief. “Do you know what kind of shit I’d get if I brought this to work?” he asks, holding up the gaudy basket filled with treats. He works a welding job, and most of his workmates are men close to his father’s age. I smile in return. Yes, I can just imagine him bringing that to work and telling these hardcore men his mommy gave him an Easter basket. I had no idea what I was signing up for when I decided to have children. I love them so fiercely it is sometimes like a knife in my chest over the simplest things, even the silly ones. He takes his basket and gets in his car to go to work.
Last night at this time I was sitting with a Hospice patient in the quiet of her darkened room as she approached the end of her life. Sometimes I catch myself thinking perhaps it is time to stop serving in a death-oriented capacity, i.e. as a volunteer for end of life service. Then something happens to make me realize just how sacred life is, and how precious every moment really is, like making baskets of candy. On some level I am more alive because I can be with people on the edge of death…at least in some situations. I have friends who can’t imagine doing what I do. As if it takes some extraordinary capacity or skill they think they could never find in themselves. I simply wanted to give my time somewhere I felt it had meaning. Millions of people do what I do. To me it is not so special. It is what I learn that makes it so special.
In the days after I volunteer as an 11th Hour companion I often pay so much more attention to the simple things that feed my being. The shadings in the color of the moon tonight, for instance. The temperature of the night air and how it feels as it flows in and out of my nostrils and lungs as I talk to my friend earlier this evening. The click of my little dog’s toenails as he stands and dances in joy when I come in, squeaking his excited greeting through closed lips and waving front paws. My focus is sharpened. I am more connected to life.
It is easy to become complacent. I have my own comfortable small house to call home. I have more than enough food to eat. I can afford not only to put gas in the car, but to own the car to begin with. I have work to do most days that means something to me and that I like. I have some very nice friends. People about whom I care so deeply, like my children, also care about me, like my friends. The irony is that it can all be over in an instant. I try to keep that in mind as I let the chocolate melt in my mouth from the piece of candy I have stolen from my daughter’s Easter basket. Tomorrow I’ll bring it over to her house.
Oh Chris, this one moved me to tears. Your writing has become so rich and your voice so true. Love, Kerrie
Beautiful description of the gift that happens to us in witnessing the dying process. And I love the story about your son!