“Please hold my hand now. I am dying.” As this soul pulled me close to her, she looked up but just smiled. I had just finished reading “Walking Home From Oak Head” by Mary Oliver to her and she seemed to be pleased to hear some of the refrains again,
There is something
about the snow-laden sky
in the late afternoon
that brings to the heart elation
and the lovely meaninglessness
We had shared many secrets over the years we had known one another, the years of being lovers, of becoming friends. She was “spiritual” in some ways by her reckoning and made me promise to keep her thoughts to myself. As she reminded me to be faithful to her wish, she quoted Isaac Bashevis Singer from his short story “Inventions”:
There are facts that a man must disown, even to himself. There are secrets one must take to the grave.
I had read to her all that weekend from various books and poems we had enjoyed over the years. She simply shook her head when I repeated upon request how Thomas Merton had died in Bangkok in 1968 when he was electrocuted by a badly wired electric fan that he touched when he stepped from the shower. He was only 53. At this time she was several years younger than he was when he died.
As I remember her now over twenty years ago, I seldom think of what she would have made of our world today or how I have changed or who the people have become that she brought into this world. She makes me think of the winter and its coldness and the snow that leaves our tracks in its wake. I go back to Oliver’s poem and read,
I stand in the same dark peace
as any pine tree,
or wander on slowly
like the still unhurried wind,
as for a gift,
for the snow to begin
which it does
at first casually,
Today’s world eventually beckons me back and I can now see outside as the dawn reveals the first nuthatches to come sit for a second on the window feeder to snatch a sunflower seed. The dogs are curled up nearby, content with breakfast but perhaps wishing I would restart the fire. You can almost see them smile when the blazing oak logs bring them the warmth we all crave. I reach down and pet them. As I squeeze their paws, their tails wag.
We have no secrets that I will betray and they are content.