Years ago when I was a card carrying Romantic Poet, I wrote a sonnet that began like this:
When thus it comes upon a winter day,
Such a misplac'ed springtime afternoon....
I don't remember the rest of it, mercifully. I was probably 21 or so when I wrote it--lots of winter days and springtime afternoons ago. And at the time, I felt not a twinge of regret of writing "misplaced" as, "misplace'ed".
Historically bad poetry, let's face it, but I still have a soft spot for my Romantic Poet Era and have thought a lot about those words when the February mornings turn into early April afternoons these days.
My grandmother called this kind of weather, "pneumonia winter", because the warm afternoons and chill nights seem like a Pietra Dish (if that's how you spell it) for viruses. I know all sorts of people who have never-ending-colds and stomach flues and coughs. I, myself, don't know if my voice is going to work right when I talk since the weather has caused me to sound like Lauren Bacall after four scotches and a pack of Camels.
I'm sure the rest of my poem was a celebration of unexpected warmth and the juices that boil when that happened. Hey, I said I was a Romantic Poet back then!
I heard today about a dear friend who has decided to die with some grace and dignity and on his own terms rather than filled with tubes with anxious medical professionals crowding around him. Never mind the details, just know that he will almost certainly be dead before the First Sunday of Lent. And it is his choice to end it all this way. He could probably make it to Easter or even to summer dealing with the doctors. But, he told me when we talked on the phone today, he'd rather it be this way.
I feel that feeling in the back of the throat that you feel when tears are near just writing about this. I'm going to see him tomorrow. I'll take him communion. I'll offer to give his the prayers for the dying. I'll anoint him with oil. I'll listen to him and hold his hand too tightly and sit in my car for 10 minutes afterwards crying.
He's an odd old bird, prickly around the edges but soft as butter in August inside. A man of great commitments and 'as good as his word' and he was always even better than what he promised. He's a different generation than me--one of the 'Greatest Generation' while I'm just an early Baby Boomer with all the problems we've caused. There are things about him my coddled, privileged kind can never understand. A depth of soul, perhaps...a wondrous expansiveness that allowed him to live and breathe and have his being in the nexus of Need and Responsibility.
What a joy it was to be a part of his life. How I admire his decision. How I hope I'll have his courage when it comes my time to open that inscrutable door to 'what comes next'. How I both dread and look forward to our time tomorrow.
I learned long ago that it is a humbling and miraculous opportunity to sit by the side of one who will soon shuffle off this mortal coil. I am not unacquainted with death. Being a priest involves you intimately in the ironic blessing of traveling nearly THERE but pulling back with other sisters and brothers.
I learned all this on a February afternoon that might have set a record, it was so much like early spring. Somehow it is appropriate. My friend has chosen Spring over Winter. He moves on, impatiently.
I ponder what all that means. I retreat to my Castor Oil Tree and wonder whether to rail at God for losing yet another friend, or to thank the Holy One for the warmth....
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