Our neighbor of 26 years, is not well. Dementia moved in and moved fast. It was as if one week she saw us in the yard and strolled happily across the street, taking a break from raking or pruning a rose bush to swap stories of gardening and children, and the next week, a look of confusion swept over her face whenever we waved to her across the very same street, and, her wave back, once exuberant and sure, suddenly timid and hesitant, uncertain.
In the years since her decline, her husband has faithfully walked over and kept us updated on her condition. He says she is far removed from the woman he’s been married to for six decades. She is easily angered. She curses frequently, something she had never done before. And she doesn’t always know who’s who. We can see it in his eyes—the weariness, the sadness, the wishful thinking, the lost dreams.
Their only daughter, now with children of her own, appears often, sometimes staying all weekend. She and her father are her mother’s caregivers, her light in dark places, her shelter from the storm, her everything.
Occasionally, a grandson drives up in a loud diesel truck and carries his grandfather to places unknown. Upon their return, they stand in the street and toss around laughs and conversation. I watch them through the window and feel an ache rise up in my throat.
Some mornings I open the front door and see her across the street, her tiny frame stooped over a broom, sweeping one stretch of the driveway as if her life depended on it. She looks up and sees me. I wave, but she doesn’t wave back, the light of recollection no longer there.
I remember the words in James 4:14: "You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? It is a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."
Winter. Spring. Summer. Fall. Sunrise. Sunset. From the moment we are born, life moves in a steady succession of goodbyes. We can’t know what tomorrow holds. We can only embrace today, trusting the One who holds all of our days in His hands.
On this quiet evening in January, these have been my thoughts. Despite their melancholic tone, there is sweet relief in writing them down.