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  Wednesday January 28th, 2015    

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Dust to dust (10/28/2007)
By Janet Lewis Burns

Upon losing a lifelong partner, the one who remains might reflect on their harmonious and happy relationship, while another may have lived with abuse, or one might proclaim that they were worlds apart in character but it worked.

Then comes a time of taking inventory, of sorting and cleaning out. Old memories float like dust, clouding the air and the mind. Empty spaces fill dim, dreary rooms.

Through an open bedroom window weeds and tangled grass choke against a noonday sun. Promises he had refused to make spill across the old home place. His silhouette's familiar bend and flow, a routine never sacrificed for rest, has been erased from autumn's shadow show.

She dreams now only of the past"¦ but "what could have been"¯ is only make-believe. The "someday"¯ plans she'd longed for had never crossed his mind or left his lips.

People with stone faces swallow grief whole - and within deep creases of their frowns they hoard a loss too great to speak. In their fifty years together there was no hope of ever leaving this country farm behind. They might as well have lived on the other side of the moon, is what she thought.

The truth of crisp, rich-colored leaves on hardened ground, a frog sucked from its body in the pond, a sparrow flattened to a gravel path, and the frost-nipped roses on the vine"¦these are death unnoted.

After losing a lifelong partner, one is never more alone among others. Escape for some might lie in reminiscence, that private alcove where thunder makes the sound of children running pell-mell across worn, wooden floors, where the fragrance of lilacs summons that family picnic place across the creek, when the weight of a patchwork quilt pins a body to comforts of a loving home.

The autumn widow gazes out upon their land and plants the springtime crop within the furrows of her mind. In the final hour, he had passed in peace before her eyes, as if to whisper, "We've said all there is to say. All that's left to us now is departure."¯ With the final

drop of season's rain joining the creek, her heart realizes that death flows on; she carries it with her like a cross, through every waking hour.

Pat and I recently cleaned out closets and cupboards, the storage room, guest bedroom, and the playroom. It seemed as though we were discarding segments of our happy, younger years, enjoyed with and challenged by lively children.

I never thought about our kids growing this old! It seems like such a brief interval since I had exhausted warmed-over sighs for an empty nest. Now our grandchildren fill the void and have warmed our hearts and our will back to living life to its fullest.

My mother Meta Lewis died of pancreatic cancer, which she bravely and nobly lived with for several years without treatments. She had lost my dad Lawrence just nine years before her death. I truly believe the theory that we all have a potential for cancer in our bodies, and that grief or tragedy can bring it out. It can seem like adding insult to injury.

A positive attitude can make the difference between giving up and survival. Even though ones illness is deemed fatal, it need not be a death sentence. The most poignant emotion is fear, but there is one thing that can conquer fear. Faith is stronger. Faith will see one through the worst of times.

Without faith, bitterness, like telltale lines that contort a face, can begin to look more and more familiar. Dust accumulates on things a mourner cannot bear to part with.

If one can live for today and believe in tomorrow, letting go of dust-catchers and moldy old dreams, what earthly life remains can be well worth living.

It was for Mother.

Janet Burns is a lifelong resident of Lewiston. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com



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