I read the book of poems ‘Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons’ by Marilyn Hacker when I was in graduate school. I vaguely remember the poetry, but the title has always stayed with me. Almost hauntingly.
Love, death, and the changing of the seasons. It’s what we write about. Time and time again. It’s what we paint about. It’s what we sing about, dance about, create about. These are the things that evoke deep emotion. These are the things that bring us to the page, to the canvas, to the stage, the screen. Love. Death. Change.
On Saturday I drove down to Philadelphia to visit my Uncle Michael in the hospital. It was a crisp, sunny morning. Almost every branch along the way was bare. Winter was certainly on its way.
We were making good time on the highways, and we were hopeful that we would find him improving when we got there. But that wasn’t the case. He was being moved to intensive care when we arrived. After a meeting with the doctor, and a long wait in the hallway, we were allowed in to visit, two at a time.
John and I walked in to the room, and behind the curtain. Michael looked up at us. As soon as he and I made eye contact he said ‘I love you.’ And even though I saw his lips move and I felt the vibration in my ears, my heart heard him saying something else. My heart heard him saying ‘Goodbye’.
I said ‘I love you too’ as the tears began to stream down my face. I don’t know what his heart heard. I wanted to say so many more words. But they didn’t come.
Driving home slowly, in the rain, in the all too early darkness of a December evening, I hoped for some medical miracle. I hoped he wouldn’t have to suffer.
On Monday night he passed away. He’s not suffering any more. And we are left here to process the deep emotions. We are left here to carry on; to continue to create, to sing, to dance, to write, to live.
We are left here. With love. And the changing of the seasons.
A song for Uncle Michael, the only song I ever heard him sing.