LAST MINUTE TRAVEL by Greg B. Porterfield
A mosaic of green and brown stretches below the plane as it makes its final approach. Light rain is anticipated.
Walking through the terminal, I realize that this is the last time I will make this trip. People pass at a pace that is both hurried and slow; background voices blur into a low hum. It is all the same. Walls . . carpet . . . the feel of the place. Airy and empty. My brother waits. We walk to the car with little to say. Our Mother is dying.
At the hospital, automatic doors open. We move through a hallway filled with people hurrying to arrive and hurrying to depart. No one brings flowers. The time for flowers is long past.
Silent, and visible in the dim light, a woman lies sleeping. The glow from the monitor is harsh against the filtered light and air of the room. The day presses down around the moment and never changes. This is not living. This is waiting.
With the end so near, there are many things that must be done. Our drive through the city seems filled by an artificial casual feeling. Workers take time to eat lunch.
The empty house feels so small, filled with the objects of a lifetime. The steady tick of the clock belies the lack of time. Clutter will need to be removed. Countless pens Mother emptied writing letters of condolence to families of friends outlived.
Removing pictures from the wall makes the scene too real. Each frame describes a moment captured in time. Dresses, coats, shoes are evaluated for usefulness. Hats and purses lost by fashion. Certainly our lives are more than this.
Each item is weighed by glance or touch. A table, a lamp, a broken chair. Old tools, business cards, recycled rubber bands, glassware, plates, old towels and stuffed animals. Children’s books and toys. Items remembered and forgotten.
An old hand-thrown water jug waits hidden at the back of a cabinet. It stands 16 inches high, covered with Indian design in soft muted Southwestern colors. A matching drinking cup covers the tall, wide spout.
Removing the cup, I inhale the odor of old kiln-fired clay. I remember. We got the pitcher on a family vacation to New Mexico. We stopped at an Indian pueblo and gave our comic books and candy to the children. It was an easy choice. They were so poor, and we became enriched in the bargain, silent and uncomplaining for a time. The water jug—a vessel still waiting to be filled.
The end of life is never easy. Family and friends arrive, some by car, others by divine coincidence. Old stories—new in the re-telling give comfort. The passing of a soul should be joyful but is often filled with tears. Our tears remind us of the loss we feel, yet they connect us to one another.
Sitting now at the terminal, the sun rises behind me, reflected in the glass. People move in silhouette within that reflection. A pair of Mallard ducks take to the air.
It is morning. It’s good to be alive.