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Thursday, May 3, 2012

To wait, perhaps to putter

Waiting is not an empty time.

I am writing this with some fear and trepidation, to reveal the inner life of a family waiting for a holy and good death. We wait. We are waiting. We are simply waiting.

How do we wait? The one who waits for death is quiet, acquiescent, kind, humble, and exceptionally gracious.

I want to write honestly about this. He knows we are hovering around, busying ourselves with many things, mostly for his comfort, yet we are just waiting. How can he be so kind, so loving, so merciful to the ministrations of a family that is existing simply to serve him?

I see him in his chair, as comfortable as one can be in the circumstances, and listen to his measured answers, "that would be good;" "yes, that would be nice;" "Okay, it is okay." He answers questions with an equanimity that would fail me completely.

As I, the daughter-in-law, the 'spare part,' as I jokingly called myself, watch these loving ministrations and hear the considerate questions, I am stunned by his grace.

"Go away and leave me alone," is what I feel I'd be likely to say.

He waits, knowing he waits, knowing we are waiting, knowing he knows we know he knows we are waiting, waiting, for one inevitable outcome. There is but one.

He waits, knowing that we who are a thousand miles from home are here for one reason, to wait. To watch. To make the most of the time we have. But finally it comes down to this, we are waiting. Time out of time.

It feels like holy time. And it feels like ordinary time. We are busy with things like flower arranging, baking, cooking, the ongoing press of business. Yet it all stops to wait at least once an hour. We look for signs.

It all feels morbid. And it all feels sacred. And there we have it. As the sages have said, there is no divide. All of life is holy. And, frankly, all of life is at least a bit morbid.

Those of us who plan to go on living for awhile are worrying about blood pressure and growing moles on our cheeks. Morbid, if you ask me. Long-term care insurance, morbid. Reminders of our morbidity. But we wonder too about college choices and shoes and soccer matches and savor the exquisite flavors of Luce's artichoke dip. We play the piano. We sing.

Waiting is a holy ordinary time. There is no other.

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