|“And Full of Sleep” (M.A. Reilly)|
I opened an email and read a new comment about a post written several years ago about art, affinity groups, and brick-based learning. As I reread the post I thought about how committed I was to making art and frankly how happy I was. I don’t recall being anything but happy in those days. I wrote that I was richer than Midas.
I only noticed the date of publication after I finished rereading and realized that a year later we would celebrate Rob’s last birthday. I could almost imagine the specifics of the day when I wrote the post. More than likely we had celebrated my birthday and Rob’s the night before. Proabaly a simple supper, some presents, and surely cake. We were born a day apart. I imagine as I wrote on my laptop that he was somewhere in the house reading the latest issue of The Nation or a novel and Dev was likely on line with friends from Virginia or Europe. We probably had tea later that night and Rob may have even read the post by then. He always read what I wrote and would have offered his thoughts.
A year later he would be diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, could no longer walk, would have spent 50 days in two hospitals and had suffered through three surgeries, losing a rib in the last one. He would spend another 50 days in the hospital in January and February, and would die at home a month after Devon turned 17.
When I read the post written ten months prior to all that sickness and death, I marveled at the lightness and innocence that defined me and our home. Married to a man who I thought of as a soul mate, I had lived a charmed life. We loved our child, delighting in him in ways parents only do with one another, and for 13 years we had the best dog in the universe, our Golden Retriever, Max.
Reading about my past unsettles me. It’s like that moment in Our Town when Emily returns from the dead to witness an ordinary day in her life and she realizes that humans move through their lives barely, if at all, noticing one another. I thought Rob and I would live with one another forever and boy did we have plans for the future. It’s not that I thought we would be immortal, but truthfully, I didn’t consider death. I was in my mid-fifties, and Rob was slightly older. We simply never dwelled in death.
The knowledge that in 14 months, the man who walked through life with such few cares would no longer be able to climb the single flight of stairs to our bedroom is chilling. Live brilliantly, he told me, just minutes after we learned the cancer was terminal. There are things I now know about life and the commitment made each day to not just breathe through it, but to live it boldly, presently, now. Ironically, the post was about the ways artist see.
Memory is part remembrance and part ache, colored by experience. The past is never just the past. We reinvent it with each new day of living.