August 2, 2015
The framed photos and diplomas on the walls identified him as a petroleum engineer. They spoke of the distant places he had known and the people with whom he was once connected. The apartment was neat and clean, the man himself cheery and hospitable to strangers who wished to visit his living space.
The pattern of life he followed? He reported matter-of-factly, that he spent considerable time in his much used chair, watching the slow turning seasons through the large window, listening to the chatter of the squirrels, following the daily activity of the birds who lived in the trees that leaned comfortingly against the building walls. He also indulged, he acknowledged, smiling, in numerous naps.
There was a large globe in his den, and a serious world atlas on his desk. A file drawer with a very business-like lock nestled discretely beside the desk. Few books were visible. A dictionary, a thesaurus, and a volume whose title suggested something about rock strata stood in an orderly group at the corner of his desk.
The kitchen was immaculate. The list of community daily activities was posted on the refrigerator, along with the menu of meals currently being served in the communal dining room. Looking oddly out-of-place, a small delicate china cabinet sat uncomfortably in the space between kitchen and living room. The shelves held an unmatched miscellany that suggested for the most part “things that cannot be left behind.” The content included an antique cranberry glass vase and a tea pot and cups that gave quiet testimony to another dining room, another life space that this present diminishment had not yet completely erased.
I do not yet know how to say what I saw nor how the meaning of that space spoke to me. But I shall remember that fragile china cabinet, the cranberry glass, the teapot and the cups.
Thinking with you that one of the challenges of diminishment is the complex decision making process that inevitably arises. What goes? What stays? How to dispose of those tangible icons of memory which must be left behind? How does choice function wisely in the context of the shrinking parameters of life space?
Thinking with you that a life lived in true simplicity at the end may ease significantly the process of packing for the last journey.
See you next week.