Friday, April 07, 2006

Could Be the Last Time

I had a very full day today and at 12:05 a.m. it's still not over, but I'm taking a little break.

I had to go to Kingman this afternoon/evening for a Horizons board meeting. It's about a 40 minute drive and I arrived just in time for the meeting. I intended to leave earlier, but just couldn't get away.

The drive is pleasant enough. I've lived in Kansas a long time, but I'm still struck by how desolate it is in places. I live in an area that's considered very populated by Kansas standards, but the entire state has only about 2 million people. More than a quarter of those live in Sedgwick and Reno counties, where I live.

When I saw these cows this afternoon I realized how rare of a scene it is anymore to see cows grazing in a field. Instead they're usually in a feed lot where there is no vegetation left because they're all crowded in together. It was pastoral.

At the same time, I was shocked to realize that something I took for granted - cows grazing in a field - is something that's largely gone.

The meeting was a bit intense and driving back I decided to take a little jaunt up to Cheney Lake. Because of the time change, the sun hadn't set yet, so I decided to wait for the sunset over the water. Why are they always better over water?

Whenever I watch a sunset, or have any other similar experience, I always think it could be the last one I ever see. I guess most people don't go through their daily lives thinking this way, but there has never been a tomorrow for me - there's always just right this second - and that permeates my existence.

I always think every phone call with someone I love could be the last time I hear their voice. I always think a kiss from a lover could be the last time I ever feel their lips. I always think a beautiful sunset could be the last one I ever see.

I guess it may seem morbid to some, but I never think of it that way. I just think it keeps me in the moment, appreciating what is happening right then.

I don't know why I'm this way, but I always have been. I don't remember, even as a child, ever thinking any other way. I can remember closing my eyes tight and covering my ears and trying to imagine what it would be like without someone I loved in my world. It was so horrific that I couldn't stand it but for only a few seconds. But at the same time, I always knew the day would come. And it did. With every person I did that with as a child.

I was writing to my friend, Jim, recently, that it's hard for me to remember that people do not understand grief because it has been part of my life from a very young age. I lost the first person I really cared about when I had just turned 6. My great Aunt Ann had been a fixture in my life. She was only 58. My father died when I was 11, my only grandparent - my beloved Mama Myatt when I was 13. My great Aunt Carrie died the next summer, my Aunt LaVerne the next year, my other favorite aunt, Audrey, less than three years later, and my great Aunt Tina the year after that. All those people were gone before I turned 20. I grew up with the idea that every year or two brought a significant loss. It has stayed with me, I suppose.

So I always look at every event, every occasion, every meeting as potentially the last. I try to burn every sunset, every painting, every experience, into my brain to carry it with me. I never wave goodbye, say goodnight, or whisper I love you to someone that I don't consider if it's how I'd want them to remember me for eternity. When I part from someone I always take one last look at them, in case it's the last time I ever see them. Because sometimes it is.

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