Pictures and scenery from years gone by flash before my eyes as I’m lying here on my deathbed. I’m simultaneously smiling and crying, wishing to be back in those memories as a more willing participant rather than just as a casual observer.
Who would have ever thought that the desire to experience those times again would creep into my psyche? Weren’t those experiences hard the first time? Now lying here, I realize accepting this unfulfilled life is much harder to endure than all the things I had to go through while I was still young or even middle-aged.
Before withering away to my end, I had only watched the days go by without me really participating in them or enjoying sharing good times with others. Now, it’s an even lonelier existence. A hospital bed and my dreams give me my only real comfort now; closing my eyes makes me an audience of one to my past.
I experience a rare joy when nurses or doctors come to call. I can smile a bit with them and forget the sadness I feel. Then they leave, and once again, I am by myself, alone with my physical pain and my emotional sorrow. The tears flow silently, streaking my face like tiny little rivers through the cracks of my aged appearance.
Looking up, the ceiling offers no hope for some sort of release. I find the only way to escape this dreary loneliness is to sleep and join those characters that brought me what was, in hindsight, the most joy throughout my life. Experiences that I didn’t really know how to appreciate or even understand at the time. Simple pleasures like just being with someone I cared about and truly enjoying the time spent together. Looking at the sunset and its beautiful shades of color as it dipped down below the tree line. Feeling the wind blowing and licking my skin with its light, feathery touch. The little tingles of love and appreciation I should have felt when my children looked at me adoringly. If only I had taken the time to really let all those good things resonate in me deeply. If only I had been an active participant in my life while I had the chance, then maybe the sadness now wouldn’t be so profoundly devastating.
I built a lifetime of feeling alone and preoccupied. Connecting to my existence, fully engulfing my experiences could have – oh, they would have – made for a richer takeaway than what I chose to be left with at that time. So now I’ll exit this world with only memories, their impact and meaning only now being revealed; a lesson of life learned much too late.
**Originally published on PhiloSusi 4/16/2014. Reposted with minor revisions.