Signs and Portents

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Shortly after my mother died, I was taking a walk in the early evening around the fields in back of my home.  I am fortunate to live in a beautiful location, with expansive Eastern views and uninterrupted skies.  On this particular night it was clear, the moon was in its first quarter and the light it shed did not obscure the Milky Way, spread like a ribbon across the sky.

I was sad and grieving–of course I was.  Despite the fact that my mother had lived 92 years and was, in the end, at peace with dying.  She suffered no pain or final illness.  There was nothing to put on her death certificate other than “old age.”  She had chosen several weeks before to stop eating.  It was her time.  She was ready.  We got to say our goodbyes and hold her hand.  That was surely her greatest gift to us–her quiet ability to know when it was time.  She had often said she did not want to give up driving, but when her reflexes and sight began to dwindle, she put the keys down and did not drive again.  She had said many times she hoped she would not have to go into a nursing home.  After several months of increasing illness and inability to live alone, it became inevitable.  There was never a word of recrimination, a hint of disappointment with her children who had made that decision for her.  She looked around, saw others who were worse off than she, graced them with her smile and kind words.  She was grateful for any visit, phone call, a drive in the countryside.

The weeks since her death had been consumed with the practical things that are necessary, the phone calls, the service at home, the decisions about her possessions.  I had written a eulogy, planned a memorial service with my brothers, tried to provide comfort to my family.  But I did not know how to exist in this world now empty of her physical presence.

Walking in that calm nighttime, digging into the depths of my shaky spiritual core, I admitted that even though I knew in some vague way she would always be with me, I surely could use some kind of sign.  Just at that moment, a shooting star flew across the sky. I have looked up into this night sky for 30 years and have seen numerous shooting stars. But on many nights I would stand outside in the dark, neck muscles aching in their support of my tilted head, hoping to be looking in the right direction at the right time, without any luck. On this particular night, I was not looking for them at all.

So was that a sign?  Or a coincidence?  Or just the random operation of the unfathomable universe?  The part of me that is rational and scientific says it was just the random operation of the universe and a coincidence that I was facing in the right direction at the right time.  But the part of me that has roots in the ancient ties to the natural world says something different.  It says that there are signs that we cannot read and places beyond our ability to imagine.  That there are many things so far beyond our comprehension that we can only gasp in wonder and acknowledge them with joy.

 

©Martha Hurwitz, 9/27/17
Inspired by Daily Prompt:  coincidence

My Life in Water

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I began immersed in fluid, floating freely, encased in the universe of beginning.  Nothing was required of me there, no consciousness, no choice, no understanding.  Slowly my universe contracted and I grew beyond its borders.  Without understanding, I knew narrowness was coming and I would be thrust into a cold, bright dryness, a perilous hero’s journey to a land I did not know.

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At 10, I rejoiced in water.  I ran into the waves, waded into deep streams, floated in muddy ponds with no fear of leeches or rusty metal. Perhaps I still remembered the sensation of endless waters, the universe of beginnings, the promise of lands yet to be seen.

At 20, I began to underestimate the depth of the streams. I was caught in undertow, slammed into the sand.  I struggled against the current, swimming furiously toward goals that were not mine.

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At 30 I gave up struggling and floated, driftwood in someone else’s sea, waiting and hoping the waves would drop me on the shore.  I prayed for an anchor, a purpose, a sign that I had reached that land I did not know.

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At 40 there were children.  I had crossed into a land I did not know, but not the land I had been searching for.  I learned to swim furiously again, but now I needed to save others and still did not know how to save myself.

At 60 I watched my children drift away in their own ships, and prayed that the seas would be calm and the winds always at their backs.

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At 70 my life is again encased in the fluid universe of beginning.  But now there is consciousness, choice, and understanding.  Slowly my universe is contracting and I am growing beyond its borders.  The stream is shallow, flowing gently and singing promises of peace.  I know that narrowness is coming again and I will end my hero’s journey in a land that I will finally know.