Stan, a story.


DSC_0120Stan

This story is dedicated to my neighbour Stan, who I didn’t know well, but enough.

In the end one of two things happen, you are either filled up or emptied out. Or maybe a wee bit of both. The culmination of the long race of life, and the finish line finally looming up ahead and you having no choice but to cross over, happens to all of us, or will happen, some day.

Stan was no different. 86 years old and 50 of those years spent in the same yellow bungalow with his wife. Apple trees out back, the old clothes line, the perennial garden lining the frontage clearly visible from the picture window where they sat most days, looking out at the world. I’d walk by with the dog, look up and find them looking back. I’d wave and Stan would always nod, not a wave, but an acknowledgement that went deeper.

His wife had one of those debilitating diseases, the ones that take and take and take until there isn’t much left. He cared for her at home, built a wheel chair ramp from the front path up to the door stoop, and kept his vow to love her in sickness or in health, until death. She died, her body emptied out of most things, including some dignity, and the pretty curve of flesh over bone, and her ability to do the personal things that he did for her. But full of his love, I somehow know that even though I can’t prove it is true. I noticed her absence before I knew for sure she was gone, saw him sitting alone in the window, her empty chair.

If Stan was ever outside his house puttering, he’d come over and chat to me. Just before Christmas one year as we were talking at the end of his driveway, I made an appointment with him, told him we’d be out caroling with our family and friends in a couple of nights time and would he be home? He said, “Yes, yes, you come by. I love to sing.” So we did. We detoured around to his place, me walking ahead and wondering if he’d actually be there. As if he had someplace more important to be than home. He was there. He opened the door, nodded to me, and then he stepped out onto the stoop and as we gathered around and began to sing, he closed his eyes and sang out in a strong and clear tenor voice. He knew all the words by heart. He stayed there and sang another carol with us until I was worried he’d catch his death of cold. “Merry Christmas, Stan,” I said. “Merry Christmas,” he replied. “And, thank you,” he said, as he opened the screen door and went back inside to his solitary life.

I never saw a for sale sign, just noticed subtle changes around the place, including a different vehicle in the driveway. I wondered if Stan had died. One day I was filling up my truck at the Petro Can and there he was, pumping gas into his car. “Hey there,” I said, “how are you?” He looked up at me, took a moment and said, “Well hello, I’ve moved.” “I was wondering about that,” I said, “I haven’t seen you around your place.” “I’ve moved into a Senior’s apartment,” he said, “it’s easier that way. I can get meals if I want them, and I don’t have to worry much about anything else.” “Good seeing you,” I said. “I just turned 86,” he said, “it’s a great life if you don’t weaken.” I smiled. He nodded and went back to pumping gas.

The yellow house was knocked down a few weeks back. A new bigger foundation is in its place. It turns out I know who bought the old place. Another neighbour who knew Stan for years and saw the potential, the beautiful lot, the proximity to the beach. He and his wife tried to live in Stan’s old house for a few months. But it was too much for them, too many quirks. “There’s no insulation in it,” he tells me. “I had to cut a hole in the wall and stuff in an air conditioner last summer, it was that hot.” In the winter they noticed a problem with the plumbing, called Stan up, they knew him well enough to do that, just to ask him if he’d ever noticed anything. “Oh that,” he said, “If it gets below -10 you have to take a kettle of hot water and pour it over the step. Not the top step, but the next one down. And if it gets more than -20, sometimes it takes 2 kettles.” He’d lived like that for over 50 years, making adjustments, doing what needed to be done.

Stan died just before Christmas. Last thing I heard he was having stomach troubles. They found him in his apartment, sitting in his favourite chair, the same one I saw through the picture window in his old house. Stan had a stomach ulcer. He sat down one night and stayed there while he slowly bled to death. I hope he went without pain, but knowing Stan, he would have done something if it was necessary.

There are two ways in the end, either you are emptied out or filled up. Sometimes disease or other tragedy comes and takes everything, sometimes it happens quickly and way before you are ready to let go. But sometimes if you are lucky, the ending happens gradually over many years, your whole body filling up with life. And then perhaps you are almost ready to go, having done the best you can and almost everything you had in mind to do.

by Lesley-Anne Evans

Should you wish to share this story or any other posting here at Buddy Breathing, please do so by asking permission of the author, me. Thank you. And thank you for reading.

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What I want to say…


That Certain Sound

There’s a musical chord called a ‘unresolved suspended chord’, a series of notes played simultaneously on the piano that hangs in the air, like you know there is something coming after, it sounds unfinished musically.

Last night, after I prepared dinner, I sat down at the piano in the peace of a dusk filled room, I sat and played something I’ve never heard before, it spilled out. The melody was filled with suspended chords, the room with music and sighs and a days worth of unresolved thoughts of you.

I dropped by to see you earlier in the day, and you were sleeping, somewhere between two worlds, perhaps already there and longing for your body to catch up to what your soul has been craving for the last few weeks. Someone told me you are ready now, tired of the fight. I have seen you hero against this damned thing, seen you fight with all you’ve got, alternative means as well as conventional. Through it all you’ve dispensed hope to everyone around you, offered us a God-perspective and God-love. You’ve turned it on it’s head, your love blessing us rather than the other way around.

Which brings me back to the suspended chord, the haunting sound of music that kept repeating though my hands on the satin keyboard of well worn keys and in my thoughts until now. I found in that chord an echo of Gods voice, as if God had placed all of earthly life into that one musical chord of waiting, leaning, hinting, suspended until the day when we lean into his final resolving chord and all shall be as he planned it, just as he saw in the beginning, his eyes wide as the horizon. Sometimes there’s a hint of it at sunset, a lingering sense of it in a certain fragrant bloom, a combination of  words, the eyes into another human heart. We can’t help be drawn, our souls longing for that final transformation, for release from this suspended waiting. I sense that you feel it too, perhaps more strongly now.

And this thought, this small revelation of God’s way in the face of so many things I do not understand, and the great and heavy sadness that losing you is laying over my heart, suggests that you are indeed the lucky one. As we wait in this suspended place called earth and count the days of our existence here, Heaven is preparing for you, a celestial celebration is being laid out to welcome you home, dear and faithful one.

So I think of you, wrapped in a gossamer garment of light. I think of you, dancing in the most gorgeous designer shoes you’ve ever seen. 
I think of you, altogether lovely and perfect and laughing in the presence of the King of all Kings who delights over you with singing. While we continue to walk this dim lit pathway toward what you will soon know beyond doubt’s shadow.

You will be in that place of eternal music resolving absolutely everything, knowing and being known, face to face with your Jesus.

And I will miss you here. I love you, my friend.

 

Poetry Friday017


Hospice bird

Shredded strips of newspaper
on the bottom of your fancy cage ~
evidence of neurotic tendencies as

You wait for daily offerings
of fruit and seed in outstretched hands.
Still, hunger is embedded in

your dull remembrances of
open skies and temperate winds
and clipped wings healed.

Poetry Friday005… one day early


Photo from newscientist.com

Tomorrow is Good Friday, and my thoughts are toward the Holy significance of that day.  As a result, Poetry Friday is on Thursday this week.

May your experience of Easter include personal reflection on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This poem recalls the recent death of a family friend.


Scotch Mints

On the very next day
I woke to snow falling
a heavy, sloppy mess on the roads and underfoot,
and I was immediately thankful that the bag of mints
is foil lined, waterproof,
pressed down by a covering of wet white.

And I thought (tried not to, but I did)
Of you, tucked in there
and what remains of you tucked in here,
in us.

How I can’t help but look expectantly at each passing red pickup
even though I know, I know.
And how often I (almost) drag myself up there
to stand over earth and voice something you’d want to hear,
Something I forgot to say.

Like long after an elephant dies
Scavengers had their fill, blood ties paid homage
The bones remain, sun whitened, immediate.

Like you, still present in
your house on
your street,
and in echos of
your words,
the lingering smell of your cigar
as you sit in the darkened backyard with Bob
shooting the breeze.

Lesley-Anne Evans, January 2010