Another winter storm, and yet it’s April. Sigh.
Last week, the weather was cold but sunny. Driving into the entrance at my workplace, every morning last week, I would see this mallard couple waddling across the intersection, coming from the old age home next door and making their way God-knows-where. They were just the two of them, he with his bright blue/green head, she in her camouflaged dress. Ducky and Lucky, I named them. I wondered where they were doddling to, as there isn’t any body of water nearby. They’d have to fly over the boulevard to get to a creek, so why not just fly there from here, why take the risk of tottering across a busy intersection in morning rush-hour traffic?
One morning, I was turning into the entrance, checking to see if they were there, when I saw him, alone. Alone in the middle of the intersection. He was just standing there, hardly moving, but looking back now and then towards the old age home. I was wondering where his partner was, I couldn’t see her. I slowed down and stopped my car, the mallard clearly in my view to my left. I looked to the right, on the grass. There she was, tentatively approaching the edge of the curb, and there he was, waiting in the middle of the road for her, stopping traffic to allow her to make her way safely to him, so that they could continue their journey together.
They must have this incredible communicator built in, because when he turned to her, she stopped and stayed on the curb, as if he was signaling her that there was danger. Then he turned and continued on his way across the road, where he waited for her on the other side. I would have gladly stayed parked there in the middle of the road to give her time to cross, but I sensed that she was waiting for me to move on. So I slowly edged my car forward and drove off, checking in my rearview mirror. There were no cars coming, and I saw a little brown form waddle quickly but cautiously across the road to her mate.
I could imagine the quacks and the coos as she reached him, her little heart beating fast underneath her speckled feathers.
“Good job, Lucky!”
”Phew! I was scared! That crossing seems much bigger when I’m alone! Thank you, Ducky, for waiting for me….”
I imagine that Ducky’s little heart must have been beating hard, too, as he watched her cross that road.
I don’t suspect that Lucky and Ducky will be there tomorrow morning, what with this storm blowing everything all over creation. They’ll probably be sheltering themselves somewhere, huddled close with their heads tucked under their wings. Which is good, but too bad for me…..I’ve been looking forward to seeing them together, their small, fragile naturalness up against harsh metal and asphalt. Defying the odds to journey together in this world. Determined to make it, and to make it as one. They sort of became a little symbol of hope in a world that can sometimes be cruel and unforgiving.
In a couple’s life, there are many moments. The most important ones, the ones that are life-changing, are the smallest ones…… Secretly watching him read and studying how his eyebrow arches up in the most perfect way as his eyes move across the pages…… Catching the tone in her voice and knowing she’s said something really ordinary, but she’s said it to you, which makes it extraordinary……. Being absorbed in your respective books at the coffee shop, and feeling his hand squeeze your knee, under the table…….. Making her laugh……. Hugging him for the millionth time, and being taken right back to that moment when you first hugged him and knew that this is where you wanted to be for the rest of your life……. Watching her move around in the morning, getting ready for the day, and being sad that she’ll be out in the world for a few hours without you…… Letting him see you cry……… Remembering her eyes on you when she promised to be your true companion…….. Holding on to his hand as you negotiate the slippery sidewalks……. Catching her scent on her coat as you help her into it……. Hanging on as long as possible to that intimacy when you’re the only two people in the whole world……..
All these small moments are so fleeting, so ephemeral sometimes, they can even be missed completely…..and yet, they are what love is built on. Love constantly forgets itself. To love someone, there needs to be a setting aside of egos. Easy to do in the beginning of a relationship, and something that requires care as the relationship grows. But the rewards of truly loving someone, of loving someone truly, are immeasurable.
Those small moments, I can’t imagine taking them for granted, and yet we do. We all do. Life is what it is, a great ocean of joy and sorrow. For some reason, lately, I’ve had Liam Neeson on my mind, and wonder how do you move through the death of the person who was your center? How do you enter into the dance of grief for the One who gave you those small, fleeting moments upon which you built a life together? All those small moments must be excruciatingly painful when they resurface in grief. Heartbreaking and bittersweet….and yet….it’s those small moments that heal. Natasha Richardson’s tragic death, when she was at the prime of her life, gives rise to many questions on life itself. Years after my parents passing away, I am still grappling with grief.
And in all of this grappling, I’ve discovered that, for those who remain, death is not a closure. You cannot find closure from losing your spouse, your lover, your parent, your child. You can seek closure, but you won’t find it. On my grieving path, I’ve found that death is more like an opening for the living. Those small, fleeting moments that make up your memories of the person you love who has passed away, those small moments come back to you. They’re painful to recall, certainly when the loss is new and recent, but also especially when they surface at a time when you feel you’ve entered a more settled phase of your life in grief.
The reason you were given those small, fleeting moments with your loved one while they were living is so that you could live through your grief when they’re gone.
Which is why we need to remind ourselves now to cherish the small moments with those we share our lives with, to not take them for granted. Because when you’ve passed on, your spouse, your child, your parent will need those small moments that you shared together, so that they can find the open door to life. Ultimately, that’s what grieving is, finding the open door to Life.
I may not see my little mallard friends again, and hopefully they’ll have safely made their way to where they need to go. Their small moments of caring for each other will go far in building a life together. Funny what you can learn from a duck…….