It’s the bits in the middle that get to the heart of it, the meat of the thing. Of course, birth and death are not to be discounted. They are dramatic events. Necessary events. But, life is in the middle, in between the bookends. The everyday. And boy, is it short, this life.
And then, the topic of death kept circling, this week. It popped up in conversation with a client of mine who wants to promote her book on physician assisted suicide and end of life decisions. It came to me in a blog post about grief and loss. The radio show about death and dying, an actor reading chapters from David Eagleman’s Sum. My husband and his life-long obsession with his funeral playlist. What is that about? I took notice. It was too much coincidence, all this talk about dying. What’s all this noise about? To bring me back to present, to say, “no thanks, that’s not for us”? And the songs to play at his funeral? Well, maybe that is more like his soundtrack for our lives.
And then, I remember standing outside the hospital with our newborn son, who is in his last few months of high school, now. We are taking him home. And I am not sure it is a good idea. The car seat is fiddly. The baby starts to fuss. He is so tiny and perfect. We start to bicker. Grandma says, “How do I know? It’s been 20 years. They didn’t have car seats when you were a baby.” I look back to the door of the hospital, sure that a nurse will appear to take our child back to safety. Nope, you’re definitely not ready. Somehow we got him into the car seat but, he was howling. Mom, Dad and Grandma settled in the car with screaming baby and not a clue. And then, we remember that music is supposed to soothe a crying a baby. We had read it in What to Expect When Expecting or recalled it from lamaze class. It doesn’t matter how it came to us. It came to us. The cassette, yes cassette, goes on. The baby quiets down. Queue track # 10 in the funeral playlist, Devo Going Under. And we begin for him and continue for us, the bit in the middle. Life. And really, it’s all on the fly.
Skip forward, the baby is turning 18. We have done so many things together. He is going out there to do more. And it was so fast, from that day with the car seat to this day. His little brother is right behind him. I hold excitement, fear, joy, love and anticipation all at once for what life will bring for these boys. And I hold Mary Oliver’s words in mind for us all, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?