In which the Ordinary becomes Almost Sacred, and then goes back to being ordinary again.
Ritual is a great buffer between us and what one might term “the stuff of life.” We go about our daily lives doing more or less the same old things with the same old people in the same old way.
And then, quite suddenly, whether you were anticipating it or not, everything changes, becomes fraught with meaning. Because this is, you see, The. Last. Time.
Yesterday there was a comfortable pad of time: two whole days. Now only one remains: tomorrow will be The Last Time one of us (who will it be?) walks over to the inaptly named Guest Cottage, (so called when my English mother was its sole occupant; it’s all SoCal terracotta tile, no honeysuckle and hollyhocks twining around this door, but she loved to call it her “cottage”, it made her think of home . . .)Whichever of us has volunteered will do last battle with the impossibly sticky sliding door, last battle with an impossibly somnolent 31 year old . . . All the same old things, but with one difference.
The last time. Andrew will pick up the newspaper for the last time. Such a simple act, dusted now with sanctity. Likewise taking out the recycling. Or loading the dishwasher, four plates jammed into each slot. There will be nobody to do this anymore. Our home will never be quite the same again.
We are fortunate; we knew this was coming, have had time to prepare our emotions, to alter our life stories gradually. Not for us the sudden devastation of an accident. Not this time. Or a heart attack.
It reminds me of a poignant poem by Thomas Hardy; the last verse goes something like this: (his love, who used to take this walk with him, is either ailing or dead, I forget which. Dead. She died, thus he is returning to an empty room. Hence the poignancy):
“I went again today, just in the former way.
“Surveyed around familiar ground,
“On my own again — what difference then?
“Only that underlying sense
“Of the look of a room on returning thence.”
Yes, Andrew, you will be greatly missed. And we know that you will be greatly treasured at L’Arche; so I think, on the whole, that it’s a good thing.