Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Death, the Constant Companion

Friday evening, I arrived home at the last glowing ember of day. The temperature was warm enough to fill the horse tank with fresh water, so I went straight to the barn. I spent a long time breaking the ice into small enough pieces so I could pick them up. Doctor's orders are not to lift anything over 20 pounds. I had already cheated, moving 50 pound feed sacks and hauling down a few hay bales, but I did so carefully, mostly with my arms. Fishing those those odd shaped and heavy chunks of ice out of the tank require stomach muscles, a whole other concern. I was being cautious and going slow. Making certain water is available to Ginger in the winter is a nuisance but caring for my horse is one of my favorite things.

After the ice was out and the tank filling, I switched off the magic headlamp to lean against the fence. It was the end of a hectic work week and the end of a particularly hectic day. The restful rhythm of Ginger quietly enjoying her evening meal and the winter sky's silent stars are powerful medicine for whatever ails a human in mind, body or spirit.

For some time I rested in the peace and beauty beneath a glorious winter sky, satisfied there would be enough water in the tank to get through the coming week of bad weather. These moments of great peace and simple satisfaction are the reason I choose live in a dumpy old house situated down miles of flint rock road, and put up with ticks and chiggers and poison ivy and flat tires. I live in a valley that has not changed too drastically since the Indians hunted along Spirit Creek. In the deep twilight, in a certain view, it is easy to believe time stood still for these bluffs and tall grass hills. I came into the house a quiet and happy human being.

If there is any plan to life, any power that oversees the unfolding of our earthly experience, it seems to choose such moments to hand us the grim and hard news of events we never want to happen. I checked phone messages that contained tragic news. The son of my best friend had died unexpectedly the day before. He is my daughter's age. We have all been friends, almost family, since my daughter was in grade school. The cruel and inconsolable grief of his parents, his children, and his sisters broke my heart.

Death is our inheritance upon this earth. Though we think it is a distant event, it is rather a constant companion. It is the only thing we know absolutely. After the death of those we love so dearly, we begin to know that freedom from grieving comes only at our own death.

"It is one with this gift of freedom that the children of Men dwell only a short space in the world alive, and are not bound to it..." J.R.R. Tolkien

Rest in peace irrepressible, irreplaceable, and loving Shane.

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