Sometimes we have days that make us reflect on our lives, call into question where we have been and where we want to go. Sometimes we have days that call back the past, or put us too much in the present. Sometimes we have days that feel like we're treading water and trying to breathe through a vapor cloud.
That about sums up this weekend. Visiting good friends in the hospital will make you think. Because, you know, they're about the same age, a little younger actually, than I am. Nothing in their own actions put them in a hospital bed yet there they were, struck down by surprise. I was glad to be able to see for myself how they were getting on. I was forcibly reminded of the caprice of life, that we cannot take any moment for granted. All the to-do lists in the world can't trump fate, or God's will, or whatever you want to call it. We can plan, scheme, work, devise, but in the end how much control do we really have? It's the luck of the draw.
That was Stage 1 of the emotional roller coaster of the weekend.
Stage 2: Wake and wake-up call. Belvie was 95. She taught me so many things about living in the country, and especially about living in the country without electricity. Her common sense and work ethic were my inspiration. I wanted to be just like her. She taught me to make apple butter, render lard, cut up a hog, make headcheese and mincemeat and relish and Lord only knows what else. I remember her strong voice, straight talk and her lively sense of humor. My regret: I did not go to see her after she moved away from Joe's Run to live nearer to one of her sons. Time, you know. That to-do list. I always thought I'd have time "later." For 15 years I thought that. What a fool I can be. So I missed my chance to spend time with her in her last years, I missed hearing her laugh and tell her stories, and it was my own fault because I was...too busy. Belvie had a good life, a full life, and I know she passed on with no regrets to be leaving. The regrets are with those who are like me, realizing too late what we missed. And no one to blame but ourselves.
Stage 3: Which led to me stopping on the way home from the wake to visit an 89-year-old neighbor. She didn't recognize me and took me for someone 20 years younger--a real compliment! I had not stopped to visit her in years either. Imagine sitting on the porch of a quaint (there is really no other word for it) farmhouse at the base of a steep hill and just...talking. Remembering. She told me about how she shot a snake out of the tree in front of her house because it was after the baby birds. We watched the hummingbirds dart in and out of the feeder as she told me about her growing-up years. Stories, bits and pieces of the past. It takes time to hear such tales, time sitting in a porch glider and watching the hummingbirds.
Stage 4: The funeral was a celebration of a life well-lived and a woman well-loved and respected. I was glad to be there, but still sorrowing for those missed years. We did not go to the grave; there were many family there, and that was their time. I will go sometime this week, to the site she picked because it looked over her home.
I had plans to get so many things done. In the end, the important things were done. The rest can wait.