Monday, December 24, 2007

Slipping Away at Christmas

City streets are piled with snow and sidewalks slick with ice as I make my way to the nursing home. I learn that another resident has passed away just before Christmas. I did not know him very well but certainly saw him around. This seems to happen every year, people checking out of this life before the holidays. Maybe celebrations on the Other Side are more fun… and maybe there are others there who beckon.

My mother manages to eat her lunch today, chewing slowly. She opens her eyes for a split second and recognizes me. The rest of my visit, she remains with eyes closed, unable to process the images around her. All the same, she makes the effort to answer my questions with a "Yeah" or a "No." She tells me she is okay.

Part of her has slipped away – I can see it on her face. Peaceful now. As long as she is not in pain, I am glad to be with her. Seeing her lose all her functioning has been the most difficult thing in my life. Yet she is 88 years old, has lived with Alzheimer’s Disease for the last 9 and it is almost time to go.

I have never found goodbyes easy but there is a finality to physical death that makes it twice as hard. I believe she will continue to exist in another dimension and will probably try to let me know that she is okay. That’s all the reassurance I need.

Right now every moment is precious because I never know which breath will be her last. And Christmas songs, with all the nostalgia they bring, have never sounded so bittersweet.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Footprints in the Sand

The sun has barely risen over rooftops on the beach – yet several footprints are already scattered across the sand. Some run in the same direction as mine as I walk south.

The crashing of the surf and the cries of gulls fill my senses. A small white tern dives into the waves for breakfast as a rosy glow steals across the sky.

I’m glad for every day on the Gulf, where it’s warm and sunny. St. Pete Beach in winter is one of my favourite spots. The evening news brings more stories of snow and ice storms lashing across Canada and the USA. Apart from a tropical escape, what brings me here this time around is setting research for my novel. Today I catalogue names and descriptions of hotels and other landmarks along the beach. A grueling task but I’m up to the challenge!

By noon the footprints have multiplied, crisscrossing the sand at random. The tide rushes in now and obliterates many of them.

It strikes me that our lives are just as fleeting. How many have gone before us? How many will follow? The only lasting impression we can make, it seems, is in the hearts and minds of those we leave behind.

(written Dec. 7, 2007)