Windless and Still

By Mark E. Smith

Life can be brutal – dehumanizing at its worst, where some of us lose so much at points, we feel that all we are is flesh and bones.

Yet, we push through it – most of us, anyway. Not all. We scrape the depths of our souls for whatever is left, and that marrow revitalizes us enough to start a comeback, following some path, yet to be totally revealed, that we hope will lead us out. It’s never linear, though, is it? We still find glimpses of hope veiled by dark patches. But, we reach and claw, and keep finding our way out.

How long does it take, we ask. Each of our journeys is different, in scale and in time. Months for some. Years for others. A lifetime for a few of us.

I think about this in bed on an August morning at the shore. My wife and youngest daughter are still asleep. I guess it’s around 7:30 am based on the last time I rolled over to check the alarm clock. No shower today. I have no desire for one.

Our daughter stirs, chirping, as we call it when she sings herself awake. I both revel in her adorable character and envy her. I often awake happy, with a tune in my head, but we adults are conditioned not to let it out. Kids are the fortunate ones – free of so many smothering social norms that would bring so much joy if we, too, could just let it out.

We all eventually get up and my wife asks me what shirt I want to wear? We banter about my insistence of a white, spread collar button down. She notes that it’s too wrinkled. I explain that it’s fine for my plans. I’m just going to park myself on the beach. Other events may transpire before or after, but I’m not concerned. A wrinkled, white button down will do. I slip it on, buttoned, over my head. As it slides down my torso, it feels crisp, cool, flowing, perfect.

I roll into the bathroom and turn on the sink’s faucet. I wet my hair with my hands, noting the grey. I run a brush through it several times and I’m good to go for the day.

A white shirt and combed hair were my only concerns, and they’re behind me. I roll over and look out our window to the beach, windless and still. And, I, too, am at total peace starting this day.

“Who’s ready for the beach?” I ask my wife and daughter.

The room is silent. We all know it’s a rhetorical question.

When Endings Aren’t

brettwalk

By Mark E. Smith

Endings. Where does one begin? Yes, that’s a haunting double entendre because the question is just that: Where do endings begin and where do we begin with endings?

Over the holidays, I was at my friend, Brett’s, house visiting his parents. I haven’t been there since he passed away last year of multiple sclerosis. I think I assumed Brett’s absence would be clear because, after all, he’s passed on. Yet, as I strolled along the sidewalk leading to his house, I looked up to his bedroom window – the room centered around a hospital bed, computer desk, his artwork and assorted eccentric collectibles – and I felt he was there. I realized in that moment that the end of Brett’s life that I’d assumed at his funeral, wasn’t. What, then, had changed with Brett’s passing?

Upon entering the house, I saw pictures of Brett in his trademark professorial glasses, and his artwork, and his room. We all ordered Chinese food just as before, and Brett constantly came into the conversation. Where was the end, the part where Brett was gone forever?

Brett wasn’t gone. He was there with us in very real ways. No, his mother can never hug him again – and I don’t know how a mother deals with that kind of pain – but I realized that evening that Brett will always be present with all of us who knew and loved him.

When it comes to life and death, where are the endings? Of course, we all know that there are no real endings, not even with one’s passing – it all carries on with us. Life is a journey and although the path may change, the experiences, memories, the impacts made on us never end – they merely evolve as our path continues.