This Heartbreaking Mystery of Never Ending Death

My eyes are aching. I’ve been crying today.

I woke up, and couldn’t seem to stop the flow of tears, the sobs in my heart.

My dear neighbor, Jack, is in the process of dying, comfortably, at home. I walk next door, guitar in hand, and sing him songs of love, songs of grace. His dear wife of decades lays down on a twin bed across from him, fully clothed, and she pulls up a white crocheted blanket, right up to her sweet chin, her eyes riveted on me as I sing first to Jack, then turn my face to hers, singing on behalf of Jack. Sometimes I choke up, and that’s alright. I let the tears catch in my throat, and slide down my cheeks. I take a deep breath, and dive back in. I don’t sing loud, just softly, and sometimes I interrupt myself….

“Jack,” I say, “Do you remember the time I first moved in to the house….” and I begin to retell the story of meeting him, the day Lily and I were outside on the spring grass, sitting on top of a blanket, eating snacks, having a picnic. She was just a baby then, remember Jack? And you wore bright green pants, and played the fiddle. And I recount all the memories I can. I am telling stories to my friend. I want him to know he will not be forgotten. I let him know Fran will be loved when he is gone. I hold his hand and kiss his forehead, stroke his thin, white hair. He is breathing harder these days.

A friend from high school died, suddenly, last week. And today, news of a friend’s brother-in-law committing suicide.

My father, Jim, has news that there are spots of cancer on his brain, that his arteries are clogged 60-70%. This coming from a man who exercises every day, eats incredibly healthy, doesn’t smoke…We are all praying. Change is coming. Life and death are duking it out for time. We are caught in the middle, we fragile people. These are the times we need to hold one another and, as my daughter, Lily, would say, “Sit on the couch and enjoy nothing.”

My head is starting to reel. People are asking me questions, but I want to sit down. Tonight, I went out in the back with the girls, and they wrapped themselves in the finery of a striking handmade hammock, wrapped themselves like a banana, and I pretended I was a gorilla looking for something yummy to eat. They were squealing with laughter, their little fingers poking through the roping, “Here, Monkey! Here is a banana for you!” and bursting into peals of hysteria when I would try to grab a finger. I am jumping up and down, scratching under my arms, “hoo-hoo-hoo” ing like a big, hairy thing. They are swinging back and forth, I am pushing them, I feel their joy. Being an ape for awhile is a good escape when you aren’t sure what to think anymore.

There was a tree here, not more than two weeks ago. The storms came and blew it down. It missed our house, but crashed to the ground, and the hammock is swinging by a screw embedded in the stump I asked the arborist to leave behind. What is left of the tree is the sky, the sky I could never see before when the leaves and branches were covering the night. Now I can see more than before, but
I miss my tree. She was a good tree. There is a hole in the sky of my yard.

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