All life is nothing but a connected series of “passages.” We may stay in some places longer than others, but in the end, we always find we must leave and go through a passage to another place; we must make a transition into something we were not before. Some are joyful, others are painful. Some we want to make, others we shun as long as possible. We are born and grow through our first several years with little memory of the reality in which we exist. Then we leave the shelter of our parents and become a student. We date, we marry, we graduate school, begin a career and become parents: Passage after passage after passage. It is simply a condition of life that we must continually “pass” from one reality into a new one until we enter that final earthly reality called death, and even then, with as much faith as we can muster, we hope we will make one final passage into an eternal place of unalloyed joy where passages will no long occur.
I am in the midst of one of those passages now; an excruciatingly painful one. I am entering a gut-wrenching, frightening, angering, lonely tunnel that, if it were possible, I would never enter. I am just in the vestibule of that new reality and I have no idea where this passage will take me, but I can’t imagine anything about it that will be pleasant, for I am leaving a reality in which I have lived securely if not always happily (what reality is ALWAYS happy?) for 63 years. My partner, my wife of 63 years, will in the near foreseeable future take up residence in a nursing home. I will become for most of my hours and days a “single” person. It is a passage we must make due to a severe injury (a fractured C2 vertebrae) she sustained by falling in a parking lot. At least for the next several months, but in all probability for the rest of her life, she will require more than just the loving care I can give her, she needs skilled 24/7 care. We will be married, but permanently separated except for visitations.
And now the entire parade of disbelief, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger and depression are marching through my soul. As these ghastly legions march and countermarch across my eyes, with brasses screaming and cymbals clanging, I struggle through their painful cacophony, yearning, hoping for that promised moment when the parade marshal will push them on so that the longingly beautiful “Queen of the Parade,” seated on her throne atop her highly decorated float, with the word “ACCEPTANCE” emblazoned on the sash across her chest can take center stage in my consciousness.
And as are all things in life. Enduring this parade is a passage: A darkened tunnel through which I must pass. And no one can accompany me through its frightful murkiness. Like the day I made my first solo in an airplane, no power on earth can help me navigate to a successful conclusion. Loved ones may suggest, advise and criticize, but whether I end this flight successfully or crash and burn is entirely in my hands. I pray my hands will be guided by God.
Writing has always been for me, in times of stress, a therapeutic exercise. Making the decision to step into this passage has been probably the most difficult decision of my life. I made it in conjunction with my wife and with the advise and counsel of our five middle-aged children. The discussions were intense and painful and the decision, ultimately rested on Anne's and my shoulders. Last night I prayerfully asked God to speak to me clearly. I did NOT hear a voice but I awakened with the firm knowledge that I could not adequately provide the care my wife needs and that she needs SKILLED care for at lest the next several months. That decision did not take away one iota of the terrible feelings that wracked and wrack my soul. But writing about it has helped. I hope my story may help someone else.
Don, your writing stirs my soul in ways most written words do not. May your passage be a swift one. You should know that your writing also inspires others, whether or not they realize it. We notice the beacon blinking, as we ourselves move along our own passages.