From the moment I walked out of my father’s nursing home room late this afternoon, I’ve been wondering about death. Like…when it will come for Daddy? And what will the nearness of death look like on my father’s face? And most of all: Is Daddy’s end near?
But it wasn’t until my husband and I were on the way home from a quick supper that I finally gave birth to my question.
“What does the end of life look like?”
Asking questions is my way of searching for facets of truth when answers are unapparent. And as is my wont to do, before my husband could think through his own answer, I began shaping one of my own:
“I’m wondering if the end of life looks like the beginning of life. When I think back on those days of new babies and then compare those memories to Daddy’s life now, I see that both ends are consumed with the business of sleep. Most comes from short little cat naps. Easily disturbed; yet so easy to drift back to sleep. And as our “endsters” are busy with their slumbers, the world carries on without them, though they care not about our doings; they are faithful souls who live below the radar of managing the daily ins and outs of their own welfare; it is left to us to make the best decisions we can on their behalf. Even as they sleep away their life, we cock one ear to catch their next breath and instead find ourselves listening to those sweet and sometimes odd little sleeping noises that come unwittingly out of their mouths. And before we can wonder whether everything is okay, they’ve unknowingly answered our question by settling back to normal sleep.”
What do baby’s smile at in their sleep? I love Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s take on this:“I, writing thus, am still what men call young; I have not so far left the coasts of life To travel inland, that I cannot hear That murmur of the outer Infinite Which unweaned babies smile at in their sleep When wondered at for smiling…”
I haven’t yet noticed Daddy smiling while he sleeps. But maybe that will come, as Daddy crawls toward “that murmur of the outer Infinite.”