Feb. 2015 edit: I wrote this post last October, and for some reason it sat in the drafts folder and never got posted. I'm posting it now, because upon re-reading it I remember what an important milestone it was.
The beginning of fall is an odd time for me. At its first whispers, I fight against it. Try to run away from it. Not the cold! Not the clouds! Not months and months of socks and scarves and three pairs of mittens. Not yet!
And so, this fall, like most of the past five, I've been teetering. I'm on a ledge, a precipice, toes a bit too close to the edge for comfort, desperately trying to keep my balance so that I don't fall into the bleak pit that is winter's depression. Thus far, I've kept my balance; through the first frenzied four weeks of nursing school wherein I couldn't see anything further than the textbooks I was frantically trying to read to stay caught up; through the confusing first few clinicals at the hospital, trying to find my way and my place among seasoned nurses and sick patients; through the transition of four new very young toddlers into our classroom who cried and cried and cried for anyone but us at first. Through all the firsts.
The fifth week, though, it all started to come together. I had two good exams under my belt, reassurance that I was gaining my sea legs in the hospital, and four happy, well-transitioned young toddlers settled alongside our older ones.
And then this past Thursday night, mortality smacked me straight upside the head. It's been in my mind, these past myriad visits to the hospital, doing what little I've been taught thus far to help people who are ill…up close and personal to people who are very elderly and very frail. It can be scary, to know that that's what we're all (God willing) barreling toward with our desire to live a long life. It makes me stop and wonder if we really do know what we're getting into.
I couldn't ignore death his past Thursday night. It was right in front of me: once, literally — in the form of a woman who had passed two hours' prior to us getting there, whose post-mortem care I had the honor of watching — and once, almost, as the 90-year-old women I was caring for got very critical very quickly. I came home that night slightly shellshocked, the baby nursing student in me overwhelmed with emotion for all that I'd seen that I'd never seen before. And I came home to an email from my aunt and uncle, updating us all on the slow, merciless, end-of-life shifts in my paternal grandparents. And I thought of my sweet maternal grandfather, and how thinking of his manner of death still makes me cry.
And so that night I cried. And cried. And cried.
I've read so many essays written by people near death. "Seize the day," they say. "Don't take any minute for granted. Live while you still can." Those sentiments have always scared me, because how can I seize the day? How can I live to the fullest if I'm so busy all the time? Of course I take minutes for granted — entire hours pass before I blink, and those are hours I'll never, ever get back again. How can I be so sure I'm not wasting my precious life? I worry.
Yesterday, a quiet voice spoke somewhere deep inside my head. You are living, it said. You are living and you are doing. That is enough and it is okay. You are happy. You are alive.
And that was enough.
And so today I said: Hello, fall. And I smiled at the multi-colored trees.
And so today I said: I am living, today. And I whispered a thank you to the universe.
And so today I said: I am grateful for exactly where I am. And I am.