He’s facing death, this scrawny man bundled in the layers of fuzzy brown. We walk in unannounced with a plate of cookies, our inadequate token of love. We’re smiling and we call out merrily, “Hi Uncle Larry!”
He smiles back, eyes lit up and twinkling, this man facing certain death. And I can tell he’s holding onto every moment, squeezing the life out of every second, grasping and reaching for a little bit more.
And I’m sitting there trying to love him with my presence, because the words escape me and fall short and everything inside me feels numb. I am sitting in the living room with a man dying from an incurable disease.
I could die tomorrow, too, of course. And maybe this is my last Christmas, as well. But there’s something about the certainty of his impending death, the certainty that except for a miracle, this is his last Christmas, that hangs heavy. I want to memorize the worn lines in his young face. I want to remember the way he smiles and his eyes crinkle in the corners.
From my helpless perch on the living room chair, I surrender myself to the reality that we know nothing of life until we face the certainty of death. I see him reaching to make the most out of every breath his weak body takes, and I breathe in more deeply. Will I remember this moment? How can I treasure what I live right now, my cherishing of this time marked with the stamp of eternal purpose?
My chubby nephew Alex smiles at Uncle Larry who holds him carefully on his lap and I see this paradox, am witness to fresh new life meeting the dying breath of life. A camera flashes, a snapshot to reminisce the moment, and I will my heart to follow suit – to memorize the togetherness of here.
And after the hugs we say good-bye, cheerfully calling Merry Christmas behind us. We leave one moment and walk into the next, and my heart reaches to squeeze the moment fast and catalogue to memory; celebrating the gift of this moment.
I know nothing of life, truly, but celebrating the gift of the here and now, I catch glimpses of eternity, and I treasure.