Friday, October 22, 2004

Strangeness and death

I had a weird thought. And my day became strange.

The day always would have been a little intense. I knew I had to be on a 3:25 flight to go meet up with Greg in Philadelphia, and then the next day at 5 we would set sail on our long-awaited, much-anticipated cruise around New England and Nova Scotia. The day was sort of like one of those Bohemian dances that starts off slow and gets faster and faster and faster. By the time I had the humongous suitcase packed and in the car and the dog off to the pet-sitter, I was doing the thing where you talk to yourself to accomplish little driving tasks. ("Now signal. Now ... turn. Good!")

So as I drew nearer to the airport, I was doing a somewhat convincing imitation of a person who's got it together when Greg called just to check in. He had been running around like mad all day, and I felt bad for him. He was blurting things out and interrupting, more out of fatigue than anything. And out of the blue he said, "And do you have my birth certificate?"

"No," I answered in my best firm-but-gentle voice. "We don't need them for this trip. The cruise line said we didn't need passports."

Silence. And then ...

"That is so wrong. You absoLUTEly need my birth certificate." I hate to admit it but there's something about a husband saying something with that much assurance that makes you believe he might know what he's talking about. I protested a couple more times, but my heart wasn't in it, because my thin coating of complacency was suddenly gone and I was realizing how disastrous this was. It was too late for me to go back home and still catch my plane. I could lead my pet-sitter through an elaborate series of tasks ending with her FedExing these things out to us for Saturday delivery, but it was going to be asking an awful lot, if she could do it at all.

Greg ended the call abruptly with, "Let me make some calls." It would have been rude, except right then, rude was fine with me. I felt like I was in shock. But ... he couldn't be right. I'll bet he's not right. He's not right. It's all okay. He's not right.

He called back. He was right.

BUT we had gotten the day the boat sailed wrong. It was leaving Sunday, not Saturday, and so Greg had already figured out that I could just go home, get my passport and his birth certificate and take a flight out tomorrow. Since my airline ticket was a frequent-flier freebie anyway, it wouldn't cost any more to re-schedule.

It was all so bizarre. From quasi-calm to the brink of disaster and then into real calm ... all in the space of about four minutes. And after a couple of minutes of expressions of relief and disbelief, I started trying to adjust to the new plan. I suddenly had all this TIME. All my work was done, the dog was at the sitter, the house was clean and there weren't any errands to run. Between the intense bustle of getting ready for the trip and the intense exhilaration of taking this vacation, I had suddenly entered this place where labor was ended and my heart could be quiet.

That's when I had the weird thought. "I wonder if this is what it's like to be dead." After all, there I was, between worlds. All my work was suddenly behind me and there was nothing else that needing attending to -- how often does that ever happen to us? And the shock of the adrenalin rush had subsided into a sort of surreal feeling where it seemed like nothing mattered anymore.

I don't say it was a profound thought. I think the reason my mind was inclined toward it is that I found out this morning that a friend's father passed away, and my goddaughter has had two surgeries. Death has been on my mind, even though there are never really any words to your thoughts at those times. (Katie put it exactly right, I thought, in this very moving post.)

Anyway, that's it. I've been trying to sift through it to remember the lesson so I don't forget it. If that was a trial run, I better take note of the fact that I almost left without my passport, which sounds a little too close to the foolish virgins not having oil or the guests to the feast not having a wedding garment.

I better make sure to read the fine print. Nothing worse than a wasted trip.

(P.S: To all the St. Barnabas crowd: I hope you got to know Frank a little. He was kind of a private person, but a very good man. May his memory be eternal.)


Blogger Karl Thienes said...

"I wonder if this is what it's like to be dead..."

Great post, Grace. Isn't it interesting how, if we pay attention, God can remind us of eternal truths...

October 23, 2004 at 12:57 PM  
Blogger Grace said...

Thanks, Karl:
I felt like I used a lot of words to try to get all that across. But yes, it was definitely like one of those times of unexpected meeting.

October 25, 2004 at 1:27 PM  

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