Memories are tricky things. Life flows by day to day, slipping gradually, usually, from one thing into another. This year is different from last year in subtle ways. Last year is different than the year before in dramatic ways. The subtle things, the small changes, are harder to track.
I remind myself to take mental snapshots of ordinary things. Especially when they are very nice and very ordinary. A conversation. A place. The daily, weekly habits of nice things. This is just gratitude. But not just — it’s validation that there are beautiful worthwhile things in the world. It’s accounting. It’s accounting. It’s making sure these things, that pass by so quietly, are counted.
We usually never know when the last of something is happening. Sometimes, but often not. The last time I will see a lovers face in love. The last time I will see the face of someone I love. These moments can slip by like a leaf in a river. Out of so many moments, how was I to know it was that one. I can’t remember the last time I hoisted a child of mine onto my shoulders to carry them around. Gradually one becomes “too big.” Now, I’ll do it again, just for fun, and they’ll do the same for me, and maybe we’ll fall in a heap giggling (they are in their 20s now) — but the last time I scooped one of them onto my shoulders because a small child needed to be carried, or wanted to see at adult height — I remember many times, but I couldn’t pick out the last time.
If I had known it was the last time, would I have held on differently? Would I have lingered longer? Would it have changed something? Perhaps it is merciful that time for us flows in only one direction, and our memories with it.
When my sister, Linda, was sick, time changed. Every moment became a possible last time we would do a thing. Every holiday might be, and was, the last we would spend together. I’ll write to you later about why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday still. It was a gift to know our time was precious.
Our time is always precious.
Our time is always precious. It’s just that most of the time, we don’t know it.
I’m thinking about this because as I write, it helps to recover the memories of the times before Linda was sick. The ordinary times. The last nine months, the months of her illness, are crystal clear, with memories good and bad. In a way, I don’t mind those memories overshadowing because we lived together so deliberately. We lived so well. We took so much less for granted. But I still want to remember the ordinary times. My ordinary sister.
The lesson of not taking things for granted is one that came with me out of the experience of illness and death. It is hard to keep in practice though. Little things that don’t matter at all start to seem important again, take over, rule the time. I’m telling you, people, most of that stuff is not worth it. But still, it gets me too.
If I think about trying to balance the ordinary and the sacred, I realize in one quick moment, it’s all sacred.
It’s time to start the day.
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