The fortune cookie says “If you are wise, you will get to live ALL of your 100 years.” A lifetime on earth, in a body, or as a star is always defined and measured by time. Everything in time has a birth and a death. But is time herself an immortal?
Mystics of the past became scientists when they found evidence of Time’s observable rhythms. Ancient stone temples revered the magic of equinoxes and solstices with annual festivals dedicated to the four seasons and their midheavens. The 19 year cycle of solar lunar eclipses was sacred to Brigit the bride, as the marriage of Father Time’s annual Sun cycle and the patient Lady Luna’s variable time of 12 or 13 monthly moons. Sundials taught us to measure the day, and eventually, the distance to the Sun. To measure the sky is the science of time, which gave birth to all our human stories.
Indigenous people speak of the Seven Generations. A lucky person can tell from their personal living memories the stories of their great grandparents, grandparents, parents, self, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Living Memory is all that a person has learned for themselves in their life, the subjective science of one person’s unique experience. This memory arc is the reach of personal responsibility, and also the treasure chest of legends, containing the remains of one’s own ancestors.
Stories, like dreams and memories, exist outside of time. Mere mortals hope to write their names on leaves in the tree of immortal life. It is widely believed that something uniquely personal remains of the body’s departed soul after death. Yet, beliefs are flawed, as they come from stories.
These fascinations of mine with time and the immortal soul are natural to all poets and lovers. I write these thoughts as the background to tell the stories of my last meetings with each of my parents. There was a day when they were alive, and I in my simplicity did not know that they would not be with me forever. Since then, I have learned that even I will not be with me forever.
This living body where my spirit dwells is a gift of my parents to me so that I can travel through time. They shared the journey with me while they could, and their stories live in my heart forever. Time herself gave me breath from their souls. I believe she will want it back when she returns me to light, like them, and gives my body back to the elements. I hope she loves and keeps these memories so dear to me forever.
Tenderly, I recall the last day of my mother’s life. We spoke a week or a day or a minute before on the phone, amid disorienting tears of sadness. She told me she had learned from her doctor that she had liver cancer. She scheduled her biopsy for next week, so she called to tell me. I spoke my very last words to her living ears during that phone call. “I love you, Mom.” She loves me too. I’m sure she must have told me.
Next thing I knew, I got a message from my aunt who said I needed to come to the hospital right away. Something told me it was too late. The oracle digital clock in the car said 3:34, and somehow I knew. The next minutes blurred with tears. The next days or weeks or months or years were pretty blurry too.
I lurked around the funeral, seeing a body that was not my mother from the open coffin at the chapel. I did not know where it was resting until one year when my little sister invited me to join her there to sing Christmas Carols. There was crying and healing.
The last time that I saw her, she was a luminous ball of colored lights. She wafted into and through me, filling me up with the sweetest love of my life and all the final tender feelings she could muster before her appointment with the end of time. I lingered in the amazing embrace, and curled up like her baby, crying and confident, joyous and devastated. She said goodbye, and I continued the dream.
Eighteen years later, many broken hearts were mended, and our family enjoyed Thanksgiving with Dad at his home in Cambria. He said grace and the Lords prayer, just as he always did in the past when we got together for holidays. We had become a happy family again. He had been present, I heard, at the birth of all of his grandchildren. My last living imprint of him on that trip was asleep in his lazy boy chair, watching the news after everyone else went to bed. He may have gotten a cold.
We heard a week later he died of pneumonia. Poor thing suffered so many years with weak lungs. He called himself a miracle of modern chemistry, but really he suffered from emphysema after years of closet smoking and grief. As our family became orphans, we found out that we actually enjoyed being on the family team togerher. We put together a beautiful funeral mass. It was held at Dad’s favorite gospel church in Las Vegas, where he prayed every day to make amends with God during the last few decades of his life.
When I got the call about Dad’s death, I was staying with friends in his home town of Las Vegas. Again, the fog of grief took over and deprived me of many memories. But there was a special moment when I knew my father was saying goodbye. I was up in the after midnight hours facing my computer screen for some project with a deadline. I may have been almost nodding off when suddenly, out of the blue, an alarm bell started ringing repeatedly. I found the source in a digital clock display for a video deck on my left. The green letters on the screen were flashing “GOODBYE.” Again, the tears took over. I looked out the window at the full moon disappearing into a wash of clouds. That face in the orb in that moment, I’m sure, was my father coming to me, reflected in the light.
After the funeral, we went to Dad’s house. His wife asked us each if we wanted to take any things he had left behind. I packed some socks, a sweater, a watch, and a pink Silk Purse jacket. These are the things that remind me of him. I consult them, especially the watch, when I need to feel his spirit, and wish for his advice.