Monday, October 25, 2004

All good things come to an end...

including our lives. This morning I had the grim task of serving as an interpreter at the funeral of a 42 year old wife and mother who died of cancer last Thursday. She was born and raised in Peru, came to the United States, was married, and had two beautiful daughters who are now 7 and 9 years old. As I stood on the platform with the Pastor and watched the family grieve their loss, I had to work hard to keep my emotions under control. When the husband came to the microphone and asked me to translate his words of honor and praise for his wife, I was dangerously close to the edge of an outburst. I kept imagining my children sitting on that pew with my husband sitting between them and my vacant shell lying in a box in front of them. I pictured my mother by their side and the pain that would undoubtedly be etched into her face. I tried to think of what would be read in my eulogy and which hymns would be sung. I hoped that the pews would be full of people who knew me in life and had come to honor me in death. I used to wonder how my friends would be informed of my passing. In response to that particular line of morbid thinking, I began to write a will of sorts. In it I include the passwords to my computer and Internet account. I include specific wishes for my children. I've left all my jewelry and clothes for my daughter except for my wedding ring, which I want my son to give to his future bride. I encourage them to read my books. I am convinced that the books I have bought, read, reread, and indelibly marked with my loopy scrawl will give them another means whereby they can know this person I have become over the years. From Cloister Walk to The Temple of My Familiar to Mistress of Spices to Girl Meets God to This Bridge Called my Back to With Burning Hearts to Blue Suburbia to Just a Sister Away to Traveling Mercies to Daughter of Fortune and all the other volumes in between - I have taken phrases and paragraphs and chapters, mixed them together, simmered them on the burner of my mind, poured them over my heart, and allowed their savory spices to soak into the very marrow of my soul. Each of them forms a layer of the still-growing onion that is my life. Finally I encourage Steve and the kids to get to know me, the me they have never known --> by reading my journals. I have one friend who is considering the possibility of having someone destroy her journals in the event of her death so as to spare pain and embarrassment to those who might read them. While I understand her desire to protect her family from some of what is written in her beautifully rendered books, I cannot help but hope that the depth and intimacy of my family's knowledge of the wife and mother who lived with them all these years will far outweigh any temporary discomfort. There is so much more in those journals than I have ever been able to say in life. I have gone back and made changes in my will several times since composing it. After this morning's funeral service, I realized that there is more to write. Perhaps I will try my hand at writing my own eulogy. What would I want people to know about me that they don't already know? Perhaps I will include the songs I would like to have sung and a list of the people I would want to participate in the ceremony. Perhaps I will finally answer a question that has rattled around in my head a lot these past few days: What if I told the truth? What if I included the secret loves, the secret fears, the private wandering and wondering, the things I have done when no one else was looking? What if I told about the loneliness, fear, and sadness that paralyze me at times? What if I told about all the times I wanted to leave this life behind and start all over again? What if I wrote about how afraid I am to die? Not so much afraid to die as reluctant to leave my life behind. There are so many Spanish and Italian towns I still want to see. So many winding roads still to traverse. Someday I must expand my horizons and explore other continents. One friend now in Dubai longs for me to see both the UAE and India with her. Someday I'd love to. There are so many lessons still to teach my children. So many foods and wines yet to be enjoyed at seemingly never-ending feasts. So many conversations still to be had. So much beauty still to be seen. So much love still to be shared. Each time I open that computer file irreverently titled, "This Contestant's Parting Comments," and reread my post-mortal thoughts, I weep. I cry because I know that when those words are read by eyes other than mine it will be because I am gone. Someday someone will tear open that manila envelope, take the long walk down the short hallway, sit down at the computer, double-click on the Internet Explorer button, and share the news of my final departure from the world, telling my dear friends that this good thing has come to an end, this life of mine, this journey, this pilgrimage. Yes, all good things do come to an end. But it ain't over yet. I'm gonna get up from this computer, go watch my daughter in her horseback riding class, drink a mango smoothie with my son, and later attend a reading by one of my favorite writers, Lauren Winner, where she will most likely share some of her life story. I'll be sure to include some of her comments in my journal. It will make for interesting reading someday... At the end of her farewell letter to her children, one fictional mother wrote: "Go well, my children. There is so much beauty in this life." I wish you the same, Gail

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