You know that place between sleep and awake,
the place where you can still remember dreaming?
That’s where I’ll always love you.
That’s where I’ll be waiting.
Tinkerbell in Hook
I dreamed of Jimmy the other night. It’s a rare gift, one that the universe doesn’t grant me very often. When I woke up, I lay there quietly, reluctant to break the spell of feeling like he was still alive. In the dream, we were with my mother and grandmother in the house I grew up in. Jimmy had cancer but his hair was thick and full, and he was moving freely, gracefully without the balance issues that plagued him toward the end.
We spend so much of our time waiting for the next shiny new thing .. the start of school, the perfect mate, the job of our dreams, our first-born child, the house, the next vacation. But our lives happen in the everyday. The conversations in the kitchen, the ball game after school, the spats over homework, the whispered exchanges late at night when the lights are out.
I made all kinds of promises to myself about living in the moment, appreciating everything I had, acting like every day could be my last after Jimmy was diagnosed and again each time his cancer returned. But I broke those promises over and over again. It’s hard to live with that kind of intensity 24/7. There are meals to cook, errands to run, projects to finish, work to do. Distractions and demands are everywhere. It’s not until the light begins to withdraw that you start to notice the preciousness of the days, the hours, the moments that remain. You come to understand that nothing in this life is guaranteed, and that the bright, beautiful future you envisioned may never come to pass.
In the stillness, time slows down, and you notice the world in way you might never have otherwise. The beauty of the ordinary. The magic of the mundane. The presence of the people you love most. Still here, still talking, still breathing. The flowers on the kitchen counter seem to open a little wider, smell a little sweeter. The crystal vase catches the light and makes it dance.
When the life of one of your most important people is coming to a close, everything gets stripped away, and all that matters is being present. It’s simple, but not easy, as you become painfully aware that your days together will be ending soon. You barely sleep, determined not to miss a comment, a conversation, a bad dream. You can’t eat as you wait for what’s coming, having no idea how you’ll ever survive it.
This new world you’re facing, the one in the aftermath, is no test. You can’t study or prepare for it. It will require every bit of the hard-won experience you’ve gained from a lifetime of being hurt, denied, crushed, knocked down. Unbeknownst to you, you’ve spent your entire life preparing for this blow. All you can do is wait and hope that when the light goes out, you might just be able to go on.