A Samhain Stroll
“And even veil – that word – is a kindness,” She goes on. “Kinder than, more substantial than breath. Which is the true word. All that separates us, ever ever ever, is a simple inhalation. Every time the breath leaves your body we wait, you and I, don’t we? We wait to see if this will be the last time. If it’s time, finally, for us to dance.”
We walk through the autumn woods in my mind – woods bright-bruised with color and soaked in smoky scent, the air combing fingers tipped with nipping cold through my hair. This is iconic Autumn – not the reality of where I live. It is a memory of New England Novembers and She both understands and enjoys the illusion. She dance-step-kicks the leaves piling at our feet, then clutches up an armful and cradles them, as if in apology. Finally She hands me one. With ceremony. Two-handed, letting all the others fall. A gift that is a lesson.
She loves this time of year – when we throw our arms open to Her – and loves as well, with compassionate bemusement, our pretense that the rest of the year She’s kept at bay. “I’m right here, all the time,” She tells me, tapping my left shoulder. Her touch rings like a faint bell through my cell walls. False alarm.
I think She’d like us to like Her better. “Its all fun and games and sugar skulls and ‘death positivity’,” She teases me, “until the test results come back. Or the phone rings at three in the morning. There’s no ‘tumor positivity’ movement. No one wants the trick instead of the treat.” She’d like that, but She knows better. Human psychology? Fear of Her invented it. She understands us deep and well.
Also, we have a history, She and I. There was a time when I begged Her to lift that veil. When for all its slightness it seemed like a cruel barrier to me. I wanted to be done, to walk out of my story. But. “Use your feet,” She told me. “Walk the road. My mercy is no cure. You don’t like the way you’re living? Live better. I’m not your back-up plan.”
“I thought you were such a bitch,” I tell Her now, as we walk through the long-slanting late-afternoon light.
“I’m whoever you need me to be,” She reminds me. Because I know this. I know Her true name is Necessity. “When I am What Has to Be – chosen or not – then we dance. And in that moment, I will have nothing but loving respect for the road you’ve walked, whatever its length. In that moment I will end all your pain, and all your fear, and I will be in awe at the marvel that is a single human life, and your courage in the living of it will be inexpressibly beautiful to me.”
She pinches me, on my left arm of course. Between delighted bites of a candy apple. “In that moment,” She laughs, “I will be your best friend. But that moment is not now.”
“No, it’s not,” I agree. And smile at the good fortune that makes what She says true – Now is neither the moment of my choosing, nor of Hers. Every such moment is a gift.
She begins to fade. Turns gauzy. Translucent. “I’ll be here when you Need me,” She says by way of goodbye. “Don’t you worry”.
“Because the veil is thin,” I say, to the empty air.
And Her last word is just a whisper, could be a sigh, or simply an exhalation, somewhere over my left shoulder.
“Always,” She says.
This post was written by Laurie Dietrich