My friend Nancy tells me she’ll be buried on this summer’s hill where daysprings meet the aging farmer before dawn has torn the covers
from the night; where beauty is at home. And so it will be when
Nancy’s three mean daughters have grown old themselves
and one day travel long to stand beside her grave, they
will have to run the gauntlet of this grace, come face
to face with what is beautiful in what we have
not made, stand on the highest rise
above the valley
thinking what a thing a lifetime is.
Let not even I imply she should have saved her money, spent the eleven thousand, three hundred and fifty dollars on Lipitor and long term care insurance, thus assuring these three daughters—not even really nice as children—would burn her body up and pay some stranger to sprinkle the ashes (that is what they will call us then) out on the Atlantic, because, “Mother liked the sea.”
The sea: that grave no one will frown if you don’t visit.
There are not many ways to bring our children home.
My grandmother spent years dying. Always slightly terminal.
I think there was a lot of that sort of thing back then.
And then she died. Just like that.
She was only six years older than I am now.
I thought she was a hundred.
Anticipating death was just a thing my family did.
When my little sister Eileen was in the ninth grade
(I would have been safely off at college, dealing with death
Only on holidays and school vacations),
they thought my Aunt Ethel was checking out,
and asked Eileen to spend the night with her.
“No,” Eileen said. “I’m sure she’d rather be alone,
and get a good night’s rest tonight.”
Eileen didn’t go. But neither did Aunt Ethel, eighty-five and mean and strong today.
Maybe if I think I’m dying, I could send for Eileen, and she’ll refuse, I’m very certain, just won’t come, and neither will my death.
There should be some little ritual like that when you are dying.
Some delay procedure you learn in advance that signals,
No, not just at this moment. Give me five minutes,
just to catch my breath.
Not quite yet.
Linda McCullough Moore is the author of the short story collection
This Road Will Take Us Closer to the Moon and the novel The Distance Between.