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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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”…]
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 Scarlet gaura (Gaura coccinea)
 Greenthread (Thelesperma filifolium)
 Texas bindweed (Convolvulus equitans)
 Trumpet vine (a.k.a. trumpet-creeper, common trumpet-creeper, trumpet ash, trumpet-flower, devil’s shoestring, foxglove vine, or cow-itch; Campsis radicans)
 Tenpetal thimbleweed (Anemone berlandieri)
 Purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea)
 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)
 Texas dandelion (a.k.a. false dandelion, Carolina desert-chicory, leafy false dandelion or Florida dandelion; Pyrrhopappus carolinianus)