Some comfort here

When you spend all your time waiting, listening for news that could bring pain, emotion seeps from every pore and drips in slow motion until puddles of worry take shape at your feet.  Thus has been the last several days with a loved one hospitalized in critical condition, someone dear to me who faces an uphill battle, but now a battle with hope appended to its wake.

Close-up of a scarlet gaura (Gaura coccinea) in bloom (20080419_03807)

Everything is made to be broken.  Thus rings the loudest bell in life, the piercing sound of endings that follow all beginnings.  For in this universe that shelters us, nothing is eternal.

Close-up of greenthread (Thelesperma filifolium) blossoms (20080419_03783)

Even as the blossoms of spring leap from beneath earthen slumber and whisper into the air the scent of perfumes both subtle and gross, so too does their time begin to end, the clock of their lives already winding down from the moment they burgeon to life.

Close-up of a Texas bindweed (Convolvulus equitans) blossom (20080601_05971)

John Muir once wrote, “Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.”

Close-up of trumpet vine (a.k.a. trumpet-creeper, common trumpet-creeper, trumpet ash, trumpet-flower, devil’s shoestring, foxglove vine, or cow-itch; Campsis radicans) (20080614_06699)

A few days ago I spoke with a dear friend about death, about being prepared—or at least accepting, as one can never truly be prepared for the death of a loved one.  And while death’s hand appears momentarily stayed, this event offered yet another reminder that all things end, whether today or tomorrow or years down the road.  All things end.

Close-up of a tenpetal thimbleweed (Anemone berlandieri) blossom (2009_03_21_013462)

In our conversation my friend and I delved through the emotional aspects of this finale to find ourselves of like minds in that the living come from the same matter as everything else in the cosmos, and back to that collection of matter we should return when the sands in our life’s hourglass finally run out.  After all, as Sir Arthur Eddington said, “We are bits of stellar matter that got cold by accident, bits of a star gone wrong.”

Close-up of a purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea) blossom (2009_05_31_021059)

There is always some reason to not let go, to resist the natural course of events, to stand firm against the inevitable as if just this once something different will happen.  The endlessness feared from such goings creates a strength of will that makes us think we can change the course of living.  And lacking that ability, we give things an eternal soul that will go on even after the body ceases to live.

A field of Mexican hat (Ratibida columnaris) with a backdrop of wild carrot (a.k.a. bishop's lace or Queen Anne's lace; Daucus carota) (2009_05_31_021049)

I need no such comforts, no mystical hopes of seeing someone later, for I know in my heart that we end just as all things end, and that end comes to stars and to planets and to people and to plants, and there’s nothing that can be done to stop it.  Accepting it, a desire to prepare for it notwithstanding, is the best we can do.

Close-up of a Texas dandelion (a.k.a. false dandelion, Carolina desert-chicory, leafy false dandelion or Florida dandelion; Pyrrhopappus carolinianus) (2009_05_31_020993)

All we can taste is this moment.  Tomorrow never comes because it becomes today long before we can touch it.  The hourglass can never contain eternity.  So we cherish what we have now, what we have in this place, and we know that—despite the threat of pain—endings always follow beginnings.

[Out of respect and a wish for privacy, let’s leave it at “a loved one”…]

— — — — — — — — — —


[1] Scarlet gaura (Gaura coccinea)

[2] Greenthread (Thelesperma filifolium)

[3] Texas bindweed (Convolvulus equitans)

[4] Trumpet vine (a.k.a. trumpet-creeper, common trumpet-creeper, trumpet ash, trumpet-flower, devil’s shoestring, foxglove vine, or cow-itch; Campsis radicans)

[5] Tenpetal thimbleweed (Anemone berlandieri)

[6] Purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea)

[7] A field of Mexican hat (Ratibida columnaris) with a backdrop of wild carrot (a.k.a. bishop’s lace or Queen Anne’s lace; Daucus carota)

[8] Texas dandelion (a.k.a. false dandelion, Carolina desert-chicory, leafy false dandelion or Florida dandelion; Pyrrhopappus carolinianus)

12 thoughts on “Some comfort here”

  1. When my best friend was looking his final days straight in the eye, he told me, “If it’s my time, it’s my time.” It was immediately comforting, both knowing he was at peace with his fate, and a reminder that we’re part of something so much greater. I’m holding you and yours in my thoughts.

  2. Jason, I’m thinking about you and your loved ones. You do everyone a great service in sharing your thoughts and reminding us that we should “cherish what we have now.” I hope the days and weeks to come will hold moments that become memories, which you can carry with you forever.

  3. Brava to Amber’s sentiment above. You serve us all with your daily creativity and wisdom, and your thoughts about death are as enriching and moving as anything you’ve ever shared here.

    But however we order chaos out of the universe in order to comfort ourselves, watching while someone we love moves toward the brink is quite another matter, and I fear is always going to be an agony. Those who watch never come out of the battle unmarked.

    While I don’t give a damn for the pronouncements of those who offer platitudes for the consumption of mass audiences… which of course is the stock in trade of most organised religions… on the occasion of a memorial service for the British dead in 9/11, the Queen said something that was simple and true. “Grief is the price we pay for love.” I don’t think there’s much that’s painful any of us would want to duck out of when it’s put that gracefully.

    Jason, your loved one will be strengthened by everything you can offer at this time. All your wisdom and inner strength and clarity of vision will fortify and support. Go gently and look after yourself.

    1. Clive – thank you for sharing that quote from your Queen – it instantly resonates as true, and is beautiful in its simplicity. Inasmuch as a few words can help someone, you’ve no doubt offered a little comfort to Jason, and to others as well. I will share this will my loved ones as well.

  4. Grief is such a hard taskmaster. There is nowhere to go to get away from the pain. Time will heal, but never erase. One day memories are all we will have left of each other, so tuck them away as gold today.

    Lots of *hugs*

  5. Thanks to each of you for your kind thoughts. More good news today, so that’s a welcome change from the previous several days. Here’s hoping things go as well in the next few weeks as the doctors predict.

    Again, thank you. Your well wishes are appreciated more than you know.

  6. This is a beautiful post. I keep coming back to it. I’m wondering if I dare to send it to my parents, who are 92 and 86. They would be in accord with everything in it, I just hate to perturb their present moment, which is so precious.

    1. You honor me, Annie. Thank you. It’s such a gift to think you feel this warrants sharing, let alone that you keep coming back to it. Amazing how pouring out the soul can find kindred spirits…

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