Dusk was settling in and the fireflies began illuminating our vista with intermittent rhythm. I grasp tightly to the aged, shriveled hand nestled in mine and project our souls into the surrounding dance of light. Mindless, unconcerned, and only existent in a reverie of love, we dance; my Miriam and I. Hearts colliding and minds twirling, our projected essences mingle into one. Our earthly shackles have fallen away: the world weariness and diminishing life that constitutes old age. I look into my beloved’s eyes and find, in this moment, recognition. Recognition and Love.
The receding light of day is a reminder of life’s transitory nature. Our bodies wither, ambition dulls, and eventually our minds fade, similarly to the waning strength of the sun. Returning to earth and the wooden rocker on my front patio, I glance over at Miriam’s flower bed nestled against an old magnolia. The forget-me-nots have been invaded by weeds and neglected by their normally devout caretaker. They were her children, the product of her love and nurturing. Now they had been forgotten, wilting and choked with crabgrass.
My thoughts linger on death, the unavoidable destination people shy away from. When a loved one exits this reality and begins the great adventure, why do we mourn? Is it love? Attachment? We can reason and say that dying is a process of nature and something we should cherish as a facet of life itself. But why do we feel a heartache and grief that keeps us awake at night? Why do our hands shake with sadness when we lift a pencil to write? My darling Miriam is physically sound. Her bodily strength ebbs just as surely as mine, however the degradation of her memories—her heart— is a painful realization greater than death itself.
Twilight deepens and the fiery insects emerge in abundance. Long shadows adorn the lawn, stretching to the front steps like fingers probing for a thing almost lost. The day was over, and the sun diminished. Knowing it was time to retire for the night, I clamber to my feet. I offer my hand to Miriam, our eyes meeting in the twinkling light of fireflies. In that moment, I realize some part of her has finally passed on. Confusion and bewilderment replace the recognition I searched for earlier. A lone tear trails down my old face as I understand. Even love can die.
Note: Researchers have discovered that emotions outlast memories. Victims of severe Alzheimer’s are still capable of increased happiness when meeting friends or family. If you are loved one of such individuals, please know that you DO have an effect. Your affection WILL make a difference. And most importantly, love CAN transcend impermanence.