I didn’t know it was there. For the first thirty five years. I was too busy. I was immortal. Building a legacy, carving a niche, making a name.
Until something went wonky. My legs wouldn’t work. I was dizzy. My words muddled. Thoughts fogged. Grip weak. There were blood tests. Scans. Inside the tube while it hammered and buzzed around me, recording my cells, my veins, my insides coming out into black and white etch-a-sketch images.
In the doctor’s office she handed it to me. It is carved, mahogany maybe, shining with a burnished gleam. Two globes and the sand an emerald green, already trickling. She shows me the scan, this patch, she says, shows that part of your brain is dead. We think you’ve had a stroke.
I tried to leave it in the office. I didn’t want it. I didn’t want to know I was human, finite, limited. I can remember the white of the fluorescent lights and the lilt in her Danish accent as she spoke. Clinical. Professional. I propped it in the corner and left, trying not to think.
It followed me home. Growing stubby legs like a Disney teapot. It sat in the corner, humming to itself, sand trickling. I was determined not to let this stop me. I wanted to live even more then. I needed time to recover but once stronger I kept building, my Tower of Babel was back in full swing. Make it higher, write the list, tick off the things. Do it. Do it all. Now. There is no time to waste. It is already flowing, the lower bulb filling, the upper emptying. It created a quiet panic in me, which I still feel below my rib cage, catching my breath. When? How stealthily our bodies deceive us, how cunningly they plot our downfall.
I have not learned yet how to live with this. Ignoring is no good. Confronting also ineffectual. How to accept it, hold it, polish it, tenderly cradle it like a baby, rocking the sorrow and grief away? How to be thankful for this? Harbinger. Fate. Death.
We have come to an uneasy peace. An uneasy piece. But I cannot forget. Now that I have seen it. It cannot be unseen. Now that I know it cannot be unknown. I cannot pretend it doesn’t exist. I can’t ignore it. In the solitary moments, I can hear it whispering, shushing into oblivion, the quiet fall of my moments.
How to live with fullness and joy, with abandon, with fire and passion, with delight and freedom, while being ready to release it? To let go. How to be grateful for this knowing? How to embrace the hoped for decades ahead, when they are not owned, and cannot be promised?
Maybe I will say “hello”. Maybe I will imagine my life to come, complete with rocking soundtrack, making a giant scrapbook of memories big enough to climb right into, and share it with loved ones as I get ready to leave. I like these ideas for getting practical and getting on with it . And maybe I will look my Death in the face and like Arya Stark politely say, “not today.”