Monday, June 9, 2014

The Things I Will Take With Me When I Go

~ Dedicated to my grandfather Harry Clayton Vannatter & my aunt Darlene Elizabeth (Vannatter) Lee.
There are a whole lot of people who own a whole lot more than I do. They own cars, cottages, boats, expensive entertainment systems. They have more clothes, more shoes, more furniture. They even may have more friends than I do. Meanwhile, I own some CD's, DVD's, books, some clothes, and that's it (well, if you don't count my collection of Women of World Wrestling Federation figurines; what up, Trish Stratus?)
But, as much as it is a cliche, we can't take material things with us when we go. And we will all go sooner or later, unless our name is Lieut. Cmdr. Data. Lucky bastard. (Edit: Shame on me; even he dies, in Star Trek: Nemesis).
However, I think we can hold onto memories and how something or someone made us feel at a time in our lives. I'll remember walking through the park at dusk and watching a mother duck and father duck and their fuzzy ducklings floating carefree on the lake. I'll remember the cardinals flying around me as I jogged along the path near my place.
I shall remember when I was still a teenager and how I rushed into the hospital room to be with family as we spent those last grief-stricken but precious moments with my Grandfather. As I lay on my dying bed, I will remember us singing hymns at his bedside as he laboured to breathe his last breaths.
I shall remember the moment several years later when I was awakened from a light sleep in the family room in a hospital not that far from here. The voice over the loudspeaker asked my Aunt's family to return to her room. When I am no longer able to talk or to brightly smile (no one could smile like her), I will take solace in the hand of a loved one brushing against my arm and forehead, talking to me, telling me how much they love me, and reassuring me that soon my long struggle will be over.
I will remember the way my heart felt when I'd fall in love or infatuation with a woman. I will bring my fingers to my lips and almost be able to once more feel first kisses. My arms shall remember how they felt the first time I held you.
I will remember the kindness of friends, without whom I would not have been able to make it as far as I did. I will remember the love of family.
When I go I will remember seemingly small gestures that still made such a difference, like watching a frail old woman planting tulips in her garden, or the way it made me feel connected to an often disconnected humanity when I'd pass by a stranger in the mall and we'd take the time simply to nod our heads and say hello.
As I go, my heart will hurt as I remember my failings and what a fool I could be, how I hurt myself and others. But in that moment I will forgive myself, and a portion of the tears that stain my face will be joyful tears, knowing that I have learned so much from the mistakes.
When I go, any beliefs that I still cling to shall all pass away.
When I go, I will be proud of myself and I shall offer myself, and accept, total pardon.
When I go, I will empty myself of every little thing except for the love and moments of dumb-struck awe that I have been blessed to have experienced.
Oh death, where is thy sting? Where is thy victory?
Mark Andrew Nouwen