Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Falling Leaves

“Michael, Michael --- come outside and sit down with me. Let’s talk.”

Sitting down beside Sam in the fading sunlight, I ask, “How was the chicken dinner Sandy made for you?”

“Good. She cut up the chicken nice and small. You know these old mashers are worn out. Gotta have it that way.”

Having been away a week, I am curious as to his state of mind and heart. “How have things been this week, Sam? Has your sleep improved?”

“What? Speak up!”

I speak louder. “Your sleep. Any more dreams of Lilly?”

“Well, I wake up before the birds every morning, I tell you that. The dreams, though --- oh, the dreams. Nightmares, really. It’s hard, Michael. Sixty-two years together. We never argued.”

Wanting to help the man, I spur him on, “Tell me about the nightmares, Sam.”

“Same thing. Silver. A silver rope wrapped around and around Lilly and me. We were hugging closely, and” —his voice begins to crack and he stutters—“It, it breaks. The silver cord, the rope—it breaks…pancreatic cancer is a damnable thing, Michael.  I did everything I could!  Everything…”

 I grab his hand and he calms.

“It just rained yesterday, why are the clouds coming back? Ahhh, its getting dark too. Bring me the telescope. Let me look at the stars.”

I quickly bring him the telescope which he keeps out on his patio and he gazes up.

“Help me hold it, Michael. These old arms are weak.”

I hold the end of the scope and he tries to look.

“Is the lens clean? I can’t see anything!”

I take a look and tell him it is clear.

“These old windows in my head are dirty.” he chuckles. “Bring me in. Getting cold too.”

I gently help Sam stand. His legs have grown weak with his near ninety years. He uses a cane, still resisting a walker or wheelchair. Stubborn, but this trait is something I admire in the man.

As we enter his home, he asks me to take him to his bed, which I dutifully do. After getting him settled, he looks at my full head of dark hair and comments as he often does:

“Such a nice head of hair. My hair is almost gone now and all white. I’m getting old, Michael.”

“A little, Sam.” I smile.

“Did I tell you that before—about your hair?”

“Well, I do have all my hair!” I joke.

“Ahh, my brain. My brain used to be like gold. In fact, it made a lot of gold for me. My skull was like a golden bowl with a golden brain. Now it is breaking.” He paused. “Bring me some water. Put it by the bed. Water. Source of life, you know.”

I get him water, put it by his bed, and hand him a cup. He brings it to his mouth but his trembling hands lose their grip and the water tumbles down onto his shirt and lands on the floor.

“G** D***it!!!” He curses loudly.

“Sam!  You can’t talk like that!” I cry.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. You are right. I am such a sinner! God forgive me! How can I ever face Him?”

“God has provided the way and you have accepted it, Samuel Bryan. I know you believe.”

“Yes, I believe. It is just hard for me … all those years … I want to see her, Michael. I so miss my Lilly.”

“And you will. The beauty is that you will see her again. You and Lilly will walk together again, Sam.”

His mood eases as I clean up the small mess.

 Soon after, I make sure all is in order and prepare to leave for the evening.

“Lock the door. Make sure you lock the door. I don’t want a surprise tonight.”

After a prayer by his bedside, I leave into the night.

On the drive home my mind runs back to an ancient bit of poetry written by an old man. Timeless poetry, as the ravages of age are not bound by time nor place.

“Remember your Creator
    in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
    and the years approach when you will say,
    “I find no pleasure in them”—
 before the sun and the light
    and the moon and the stars grow dark,
    and the clouds return after the rain;
  when the keepers of the house tremble,
    and the strong men stoop,
when the grinders cease because they are few,
    and those looking through the windows grow dim;
  when the doors to the street are closed
    and the sound of grinding fades;
when people rise up at the sound of birds,
    but all their songs grow faint;
  when people are afraid of heights
    and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms its white hue
    and the grasshopper drags itself along
    and desire no longer is stirred.
Then people go to their eternal home
    and mourners go about the streets.
 Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
    and the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
    and the wheel broken at the well,
  and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
    and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Ecclesiastes 12

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