Tag Archives: time

Days And Decades

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How 15 hours became 20 years…

Today is the 20th anniversary of Mama’s death…but just barely.  December 8 was just a couple of hours old when she drew that last breath and moved from here to Heaven.  So while this is technically the anniversary, I always spend December 7 remembering…reliving…her last day of life, and spending it with her.

I arrived at Baptist Hospital around 11:30 that cold, grey Sunday morning, to relieve Dad, who had spent the night before with her.  He told me that, after being unresponsive for over 12 hours, she had awakened in the middle of the night, and they had a conversation.  She said she knew she would die soon, and that she was not afraid.  His recollection of that exchange shook me, hard and deep.  As we chatted briefly, he made a note to send to their financial advisor on Mama’s hospital menu for that day.  I remarked that I probably had a blank sheet of paper he could use, and he said no, the menu would be fine, especially since it documented the date and his note was an instruction for an account change that needed to be done before the end of the calendar year.  He was, and still is, careful and astute in financial matters.  We hugged goodbye and I told him to go home and get some sleep, that I’d see him later.

Just minutes after he left, Mama’s face changed, as did her breathing, echoing through the room with “the death rattle” I had often heard mentioned in older people’s conversations, but had only heard with my own ears a few times.  It didn’t register with me right away that she had begun actively dying, but over the course of the day it sank in.  In about a half hour a nurse came in to check Mama’s vital signs, and she asked how long her breathing had been like that.  When I answered, this sweet nurse just came and put her arm around my shoulder, telling me that she didn’t think Mama was in any pain or distress, that I could talk or sing to her, pet her and love her, because nothing was bothering her now.  I think now that this nurse may have been an angel; I don’t remember having seen her at any other time during our hospital stay; I can’t recall her name or face or hair color; I only remember her words and the feel of her arm around me.

For her last 15 hours, Mama and I shared that little space together, mostly alone except for nurses and CNAs coming in to check her vital signs and to ask if I was all right, if I needed anything.  We only had a few visitors, including a hospital social worker and her husband, who circled around and prayed with us, and my cousins Judy and Ann, who came that night just hours before Mama died.  There were some phone calls through the day, but mostly many hours of stillness.  Mama never awoke that last day, but I spoke to her, and I know she was aware of my presence…my love.

Flash forward to last week when I was messaging with a friend and telling him about Mama’s anniversary coming up.  He expressed understanding of my residual grief.  We talked on about the state of current affairs, the world, and concerns over what we, as individuals and as a culture, may leave behind.  I tried to reassure him that he is sending light into a world that sometimes seems very dark.

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And I realized something.  Those last priceless hours I shared with Mama shaped the way I view my years, and how I want to spend whatever time I have left.  When it is time for me to leave this world, I hope I am remembered for the moments I shared with others…one on one and bunches of us together, moments of music and silence, times we laughed until we cried, ate until we belched and then laughed some more, hugs and smiles and being genuine with one another (I don’t really know how to be any other way).  If my moments are meaningful, then my years will be worthwhile.

In her last 15 hours of life, Mama taught me just as much as she did in the 58 years that preceded them.  What a gift!  If my days and decades are a tiny fraction as full as hers were, I will leave something good behind me here when I leave.

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Forward

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It’s the only direction God gave us…

My car wreck in January brought with it a number of inconveniences and issues.  The biggest of these was, of course, my car being totaled and the urgent need to find a replacement/successor for my DivaMobile.  Compounding the search was my insistence on purchasing another stick shift.  I am relieved to report that we found a worthy successor for Veronica.  Her name is Patsy Cline Clairmont Cutshaw; Cline for the obvious person, and Clairmont for Patsy Clairmont, a favorite author of mine.  The car is a 2011 Subaru Forester wagon/SUV with a 5-speed manual transmission, and with fewer than 40,000 miles.  So basically, she is just starting to get broken-in.  Lord willing and knock wood, we will have a long, happy and SAFE relationship.

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In the car replacement process there were also several conversations with our insurance company.  I am grateful that everyone we dealt with did all they could to make a traumatic situation as stress-free as it could be, from ascertaining the total loss to simplifying the paperwork and getting the settlement check to us as quickly as possible.  Between those funds, our income tax refund and a little bit of savings, we were able to make a decent down payment on Patsy and begin the process of moving forward.

When I wrecked Veronica, lots of stuff got broken, including the watch I was wearing that morning.  It’s not an expensive timepiece by any means, but it has been a favorite of mine for probably 20 years, an easy go-to choice most days.  The actual mechanism of the watch was fine and it continued to run after the accident.  Just the crystal was broken and needed to be replaced.  Getting it fixed was not at the top of the list of priorities in the aftermath so I didn’t get it done right away.

Finally one day a couple of weeks ago, after several calls around town, I found a jeweler with a watchmaker who could fix it for me.  So I went by the jewelry store, got an estimate on the repair, and left it to be fixed.  It didn’t cost much, but it was still probably more than the monetary value of the watch.

I was able to pick up my little watch this past Monday.  What a simple joy to have something back that I had missed so much!  The last tangible thing damaged by the wreck is now made right.

It is not lost on me that replacing a car and fixing a damaged watch both speak of forward movement…the movement of traveling on the road, the forward movement of time.  Sometimes I think what I would be willing to give to make time move the other way…backward to before I wrecked my car, before the people I love started dying, before I learned that the world is not always a fair or beautiful place.  But that is not how it works.

Even when I put my car into reverse, it is for just long enough to get into a position which will allow me to move forward, on to the next place I need to be.  My watch only runs one way and that is forward.  Forward…it’s the only direction God gave us.

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Present Tense

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Do it.  Do it NOW…

I hate to be late. HATE it!  So, I always wear a watch.  Sometimes I wear more than one watch at a time, as both a fashion statement and a reminder to be where I need to be, when I need to be there.

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If there is one lesson God keeps trying to teach me, it is that time is precious.  Life can change in an instant. Opportunities are presented—or lost—in the blink of an eye.

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Throughout my life as well as in recent months, my world has been altered by deaths of people I love.  Not “loved”.  LOVE.  Present tense.  I cannot bring myself to say that I “lovED” a person who is no longer living.  Just because someone died doesn’t mean that the love stops.  I don’t even believe that the relationship between us stops; it changes by necessity, but I don’t believe that it ends.

It’s as though the person I love has changed addresses, relocating to a place where I am temporarily unable to see or touch him or her.  I have, however, been known to speak to my departed loved ones (not in a way that will result in my being hauled off to the asylum!) and they often visit me in dreams.  The relationships and the love go on.  We are just temporarily separated.

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Still, I tend to take my relationships for granted.  I think most people do…until we get a stark reminder that nothing lasts forever.  For example, several years ago a friend and co-worker was killed in a wreck.  Gone in a split second.  Suicide, both attempted and and completed, has touched my life, more than once.  Fast passings from aggressive cancer, slow goodbyes from Alzheimer’s disease and COPD, sudden massive strokes and heart attacks have all taken loved ones from me and my family.

It doesn’t matter whether a person leads a charmed life of wealth and success, or a humble existence of  living paycheck-to-paycheck.  It is immaterial whether one is educated or not, privileged or not, a have-or-have-not.  Suffering and death are the greatest equalizers, and if we live long enough, we’re all going to get some of both.

Whatever needs doing in my life, I need to do it.  Do it now.  Speak the truth.  Write the letter.  Make the phone call or send the e-mail.  I need to hug and kiss, laugh and cry, and go about the living of my big, loud, messy life.

Do it.  Do it NOW.

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