Dawn hesitatingly arrives revealing a frosty and snowladen landscape. Memories arrive at a much faster pace, flooding my senses with piercing gazes, touches, laughter, tears. Delicious meals shared, happy occasions celebrated, holidays made festive at this very table. Now the home is mostly abandoned, Mom and Dad mainly using the place for guests to lay their weary heads.
Where did the years go? Smiling faces greet me in photographs, the people in the pictures still young and vibrant. There is one of you and me, smiling broadly, beaming happiness. It feels like only yesterday, yet years have passed, stripping the faces of their smiles, carving lines where none existed before, leaving the bodies weak, and – in some cases – racked by illness. In some cases even dead.
Scary thing, death. Or maybe by some welcomed with relief after years of pain and suffering? You left easily and without struggle, as I know you would have preferred it. Death is not particular – it takes young and old alike. Anna was young, she should’ve had her whole life ahead of her, but death decided differently. You were only in your early 70s and could easily have had many more years ahead. Gudrun had been struggling for years, illness leaving her a mere shadow of her once vibrant self, yet she left reluctantly. And Mom, dear Mom, although seriously ill for more than a dozen years, she is still here. You have left, others have left, but she has surprised us all with her indomitable will to hang on to life. Her spirit has suffered in the last couple of months, however. Unexpected bouts of pain and discomfort have left her weakend both in body and spirit, yet if given a choice, she would undoubtedly choose life. So often we treat life carelessly in the years of our youth. I know I did. Feeling invincible, taking unnecesary risks, we at times play at the precipice, but life becomes very precious when we are faced with the real possibility of losing it. Sooner or later it comes to that for all of us, yet we are never quite prepared for that departure. I know I wasn’t prepared for yours. Maybe we never are?
Sorry if my musings seem morbid. Sitting alone in a home full of memories, so many of its occupants and visitors having already departed, conjures up uncomfortable questions about our sojourn through life. Don’t misunderstand me, I am grateful, so very grateful for all the memories! Happiness lived here. I remember arguments and strife as well from my youth, but mostly happiness. Happiness may not always have been obvious or very dignified, but it was there, hiding in plain sight in everyday life, in moments of togetherness, but also in times of aloneness. We may expect happiness to look different, to arrive with grand gestures and obvious signals of exuberance, but that is seldom the case. It’s more likely to hide in odd and unexpected places, in the din of everyday life, in exchanged glances of mutual understanding, in crooked smiles or stolen squeezes of the beloved’s hand at the dinner table, hidden away behind the table cloth. It lives in stories and laughter mingled with seriousness, in everyday meals and in feasts, in quiet evenings in front of the tv, or moments of relief after some piece of scary news was expelled. It hides in quiet walks in nature in summer, surrounded by the whisper of the trees, in the happy thrills of a lark in the sky or the hum of a bumblebee droning by. And it is visible in the sun low on the horizon on a winter’s day, bouncing off fields of snow or the multitude of bluish windows in the Nokia building by the freeway. If we are present in the moment, it doesn’t take a lot to find happiness in anything. In everything. It took time, but I managed to find it even without you.
Wanting to recreate some Christmas cheer, I lit the candles in the four-armed candelabra, and placed it on the dining room table, basking in the warm light and in sweet memories. I wish you were here with me to share this moment, so we could once again go down to the market place together, sample odd foods like blood pudding with lingonberry jam or tiny fried fish reminding me of smelt. We would buy flowers for Mom, and Danishes for Dad to take along for the afternoon visit. They were always so happy to see you, and you lit up my life in a way that still glows and warms my heart. How lucky was I to meet you among the billions of people on this planet! How lucky were we to find a safe and loving home with each other in this world of busy-ness and discontent!
You would be proud of how Annie has created a life for herself, and you would adore the little grandson! He stole my heart the very moment I laid eyes on him, his clear-eyed gaze following my every move, and smiling at me even across the Atlantic through the marvel of Skype or WhatsApp. I’ll see him in a few days when I head over to the islands. Jonas will also come along. You’d be proud of him, too, and the way he’s fashioned a life and a business for himself. You were always the greatest stepdad for them, loving and kind. They loved you, too. They still do, even as they love their dad. He will also come with us to the islands, helping to transport some of my things over there, all of us eager to spend time with the Little Man, who now totters around without much hesitation, and expresses his wishes quite clearly. You would love all the plans I’ve made, I know, just as I know you would rejoice in me managing to live on without you. You were never stingy with love, jealous or petty, and I know you would wish me every happiness just as I would’ve wished you, had I left first. Happiness isn’t always easy to find, used as I am to finding it with you, but I am doing my best, trying to stay present in the moment, and I know happiness lives also in this moment, just the way it is.
Much love to you! Love greater than eternity!
Featured image by Monica, view from Botans, southern Finland