Once while St. Francis of Asissi was hoeing his garden, he was asked, “What would you do if you were to suddenly learn that you were to die at sunset today?” He replied, “I would finish hoeing my garden.”
That’s a question that all of us pose to ourselves at some time or other. What would we do if we knew for certain that this would be our last day? I’m not sure I could be as faithful to my assigned task as St. Francis. I feel I would want to see my children and grandchildren, that somehow I would want to gather life to me. But that might not be possible. And even if it was, how sad that might make them. Perhaps it would be better to continue to hoe whatever garden was yours that day.
The Shakers had a saying that I’ve used often in my Shaker novels. “Do your work as if you had a thousand years to live or as if you were to die tomorrow.” They believed in doing their work as perfectly as possible but also as efficiently as possible. Then there’s Isaac Asimov who when asked what he would do if he only had six months to live, responded “Type faster.”
Few of us are given a specific time to know when we are at the final sunset of our time. We think we will have a sunrise on the morrow. And most of us will. But not all of us. Accidents and tragedies steal young people before their time. Cancer is no respecter of age either, and we all know that terrible things can happen because people allow evil to overtake them. The Colorado shooting is grim evidence of that.
My mother is 92, definitely in the sunset time of her life, but in her mind she’s gone back to a younger time. It would be good if she could dwell in those memories and simply remember. But she thinks she needs to physically go back to that time, to see her mother and father, to fix her husband dinner, to see her sisters. Is it any wonder she sometimes looks at me and calls me her sister’s name? I can’t possibly be her daughter who is still just a baby somewhere needing to be cared for. One day when she was asking for Ann, I told her I was Ann. She said, “No, I mean the little Ann.”
The little Ann is long gone, but maybe not for Mom. We try to be as kind as possible when we tell her we can’t take her to see her mother or father. Often we try to not answer the question, but sometimes it can’t be avoided. The trouble is that even after we tell her and she accepts it as true, five minutes later, she’s asking to go see her mother again. It’s hard to hear such sad news over and over and hard to have to deliver it too. We’re going to try to take Mom home this week. It won’t be the right home, the home she wants to go to, but we’re hoping she’ll be less sad.
It’s an unavoidable truth that the sunset of time will come for all of us, but until then we’ll just keep hoeing in our gardens. Or maybe type faster.
For sure, the sunset of time up is coming for my Celebration giveaways. If you haven’t thrown your name in the pot for the prizes of a Shaker music box, a basket and book or a beautiful pottery pitcher, you’ve got until midnight EST on Tuesday to go to my website and do that. I’ll try to announce the winners on Wednesday if things aren’t too crazy with Mom going home.
As always, thanks for reading.