Over the years, my writing has made frequent reference to “context.” Understanding context, in my view, is absolutely crucial to interpreting experience. Without context, reality is experience seen and felt through gauze and vapor and smudges of translucent oil. That sounds suspiciously like a dream, doesn’t it?  A hazy mist revealing bits and pieces of recognizable elements against an utterly indistinct background of confusion.

Even dreams, though—their foggy images and sounds and emotions partially hidden behind layers of bewildering “meaning”—are contextual. Last night, the context of my dreams was clear to me ever time I awoke from one. In every one of them, I thought I could see my wife in the room with me or next to me, only to realize the vision was imaginary. And in every one of them the circumstances of the dream were somehow related to my wife being in hospice care. The details of the dreams, as ethereal as they were, are too complex and detailed to worry with here. My point is that the dreams emerged, in large part, from the context of the life from which they sprang.

The dreams were not extremely distressing, but neither were they comforting or reassuring. In the hindsight of wakefulness, they seemed representative of confusion and uneasy fear. God, why am I trying to interpret my dreams and their context? There is no value in that. Especially now. I should allow myself to dissolve into a flood of tears. But I am afraid if I did, I would never be able to reconstitute myself. No matter what I do, I will leave a million uncorrectable mistakes in my wake. I could spent the rest of Time trying to fix them; it would be pointless.

It is odd, I think, that I have absolutely no belief in a life beyond this brief one we have here on Earth, yet I feel an urgent need to eliminate the damage my foibles have done to her before my wife leaves this life. So that, just in case I’m wrong, my mistakes don’t stay with her after she goes. I would not have had these irrational thoughts a month ago. I am allowing myself to indulge in ridiculous ideas.

I spent part of the morning yesterday reciting/reading Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 to my wife. She could not hear me read it, I fear. The reading was more for me than for her, I am afraid. My wish was that she could hear it, so she could close a chapter with a remembrance of eternal love. The words were read at our wedding 40+ years ago. I think they always gave me more comfort than she got from them.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

I hope she heard them. I hope she remembers all the times I read them aloud to her.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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4 Responses to Adrift

  1. Thanks Bev, Pat, and Patty. I choose to believe, too.

  2. Bev says:

    I feel quite sure she will have heard you. Beautiful words. <3

  3. Pat Newcomb says:

    I will join Patty D in that bet as well.

  4. Patty Dacus says:

    I’m going to bet she heard you, John.

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