Near the End

Last night I was sitting alone
in a booth at a diner.
An old friend walked up and sat
right next to me.
I put my arm around him
and pulled him close to me.
He rested his head on my shoulder.

He wasn’t actually speaking to me,
but I could feel his words.
Almost as if I were inside of him.
I could feel his emotions.
Almost as if I were him.
We were at once
deeply peaceful and deeply sad,
as if we had recently experienced something huge, and life-changing.

He said
One day we will get
to the end of all of this.
Someday all of this will end.

I looked down and saw his head
was now resting in my lap.
His body stretched out
along the banquette.
He looked up at me and said,

When that time comes
we will realize
what it was all about.
When we are near the end
we will know
what was important.

And then he was sitting
right across the table from me.
Staring straight into my eyes.
This is important,
he said without saying.
Sitting here is important.
Connecting is important.
When we are near the end,
when we are sitting,
or lying, in a room,
with people we may
or may not know,
we will realize that the only thing
that ever mattered
was our shared human experience.
The time we spent on this earth together.
The living. The breathing.
The seeing, hearing, and feeling.
The touching and the tasting.
The knowing.
The love of, and the loss of
other people.
Our oneness with the world.
And with each other.
The shared experience
is all that matters,

No matter who we are,
where we are from,
how we live, what we believe.
What matters is when we truly meet.
Where we are fully connected.
The commonality of humans.
All the same.
Born naked.
Clean slates. Empty vessels.
Helpless on our own.
By the grace of one another,
we grow. Eat, drink,
learn, create, explore.
We struggle, succeed.
We love, we grieve.
We change. We age.

No matter
what things have collected in our minds,
pressed down on our shoulders,
piled up in our hearts.
No matter which of those things
have seemed important.
None have mattered more than
our basic humanity.
None have mattered more than
those moments where
we remembered that we were the same.
Where we fully reconnected.

Those moments are all that matter.
Those moments are the only ones
that are real.

We don’t have to wait,
You and I,
til we’re near the end
to know, to fully know,
what is important, and what is real.
This is real.
He says to me without saying.

As he looks at me
from across the room,
his face begins to flash into every face
I have ever seen.
One after the other.
And then it morphs,
into the face
of everyone
I have ever known.
All at the same time.

This is real. They say. Nothing else.

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