Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Funnel

funnel, noun, a tube or pipe that is wide at the top and narrow at the bottom, used for guiding liquid or powder into a small opening.

We knew that this phase of the illness would come. When the tears of joy, the strength, the assuring smile would subside and the anger, the doubt would rise to the surface. After all, my grandmother is young, far too young for her life to be drawing to a close. "It's not fair," she says to my mother. "There are still so many things I want to do. I'm not done living my life yet." And despite long leisurely travels on trains across Europe, and lively evenings spent at the Kennedy Center listening to the National Symphony Orchestra, she is overwhelmed by the incompleteness she feels. She longs for the peace brought on by the assurance of a life well-lived.

She feels like she's watching time, opportunity, all of the things she's always wanted to do whip round and round before her eyes like a whirlpool, plummeting downward through the funnel of her life. What little she has left--that she clutches to-- is circling the small hole in the bottom. There is darkness on the other side, but also, there is the most magnificent light.

Since I was young, I've said I think I'm pretty good at learning from other's mistakes, picking up what's left behind from someone else's mess and committing the lesson learned to memory. But how can I apply something of this magnitude to my own life? How can I see through her eyes and glimpse her life--such a magical, colorful, rich life--as inadequate? As a life left unfulfilled. At the very slow rate at which I'm moving, I can't fathom my life, 40 years from now, being anywhere near as wonderful as hers. I'm not open enough, loving enough, faithful enough. Even at 22, my imagination falters in the presence of hers. What can I do except try to read though her disappointment and decipher the lesson before it's too late and all I can do is circle around the inside of the funnel and wait.

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