A novel Called “the Promise” begins thus, “All beginnings are hard.” While I don’t disagree with its basic premise, life seems to teach that endings are harder still. Or so I’ve found. I’m pretty sure most people will take the ultimate beginning, birth, over the ultimate ending, death.
And in between are all sorts of beginning and ending pairs. The one that occupies me at this very moment is that of arrivals and departures. As in vacations. This year I was a snowbird, spending two months in the gentle arms of a Florida winter. Even cold, it was warm, comparatively, and at all times, the colors, fuscia, purples, reds, the sharp green of the sawgrass and the deep ocean blue are simply a feast for the eyes. Yes, it was hard to begin, to set up home keeping in someone else’s living space, feeling alien in the surroundings, simply navigating along unfamiliar terrain, living by the GPS, finding where to shop, to eat, to see a movie, to organize banking…indeed it was challenging.
Strange, how quickly one adjusts: within a month I rarely looked at the GPS, knowing where to go for needs, entertainment, pleasure, and even establishing routines. It was no longer necessary to think through every thing, no matter how trivial; familiarity took over and the autonomous brain function let the frontal lobes relax. And then, suddenly, the weeks were winding down, days only were left and it was time to organize for the return. Last trip to the ocean, last crossing of the draw bridge, one last visit with friends, taking pictures to remember the beauty, the hated packing, knowing that when you crossed the boulevard and rounded the curve, you would likely never again see it, and if you should one day return, you’ll see it in a completely different way, because you won’t be you, at least, you won’t be the same you, you are at the moment.
But by far the hardest, the soul-wrecking part of endings is that of leave-taking of loved ones. Here, the beginning is easy, an exception to the book’s proposition. With what joy is this beginning, with kisses and bear hugs, and all talking at once. It’s been a year, and this is my older sister, the person who knows me as do few others, and loves me unconditionally. Phones and e-mails cut the distance somewhat, but until you can touch electronically, nothing can replace being there. So if you catch a break on an easy beginning, you pay in spades on the leave-taking.
The hardest, most cruel part of departure, is knowing that you might never see one another again. This is true when Inge go to the candy store, but it would be morbid to think that way – how could we live? And the chances are pretty good, statistically wise, that the 35 year old will return in fifteen minutes, to his family, aren’t they?
But a couple of senior citizens taking their leave for upwards of a year? Not so good. So this taking, this ending, this departure is painful and bruising. There must come a time when it will be the very last one. One day, one time, I might not return, or I will, but she will no longer be there. And that knowledge, unspoken but felt bone-deep, is the ultimate in making endings so devastating.