Old habits die . . . a laborious, creeping death. . . writhing on the pallet. . . covered with soot and fallen shards as the ceiling collapses.
Some people dash through your life, some remain for eons. Books flutter open to worn pages, poetry spoken aloud time and time again. The same breakfast smells waft through the house morning on morning. My uniform: Black shoes, which I bend to buckle sitting on the cedar trunk; plastic tortoise shell barrette; sapphire ring; cross-body leather bag.
But people, places, possessions — all can slip from even eager hands, elude the most yearning heart, flit down a narrow passage way or travel cobbled roads that stumbling feet cannot traverse.
From time to time, I think, I should call Mom, but she’s been dead for thirty years. My hand freezes above the phone, lest I dial other numbers, intruding into other lives where I am no longer welcome. I cling to the oft-repeated act no matter how meaningless. Sirens wail and I cross myself. I genuflect in any church, regardless of the religion. I left the Catholic church four decades ago, maybe more, but these old rituals linger, like the dancing dust on my son’s baptismal candle.
I seem to see myself just around the corner. Perhaps my soul strains to surpass my aching heart. I cannot say for sure.
When I sang mass in grade school, we learned the Requiem first in Latin, then had to translate the words to English by the time we crossed the parking lot to the high school. I hear it still:
May the angels lead you into paradise. May the Martyrs come to welcome you on your way. And with Lazarus who once was poor, may you have everlasting life.
I sing the Requiem for the life that I once led, the life that I aspired to have, and the habits which I formed along the way. They don’t serve me now. But I do not lament their erstwhile presence in my life. Though I peer into the future, curious, hopeful, still I cherish the past. If I have either regrets or complaints, I strive to keep them to myself.
It’s night-time on the twenty-first day of the thirty-first month of My [Never-Ending] Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
I could not find the modern American English version which I learned at Corpus Christi Elementary School, but here is a lovely Latin version of IN PARADISIUM sung by the Winchester Cathedral Choir..