Flame

A few days ago, while I was walking my dog, I thought I saw my best friend’s father. He died two and a half years ago after a series of complicated health issues. I had known him for 25 years.

After not seeing him, I started thinking about the last time I saw him. It took me a while to remember when exactly that was. I thought of events we both attended, weddings, birthdays, and backyard fires on summer nights.

The last time I saw him wasn’t at an event. A few weeks before he died, I visited his daughter and walked upstairs to say hi to him and his wife before I left. It was painfully ordinary and completely unremarkable. Just another autumn day, only noteworthy in retrospect. I had no way of knowing that it was the last time I would see him.

I find myself wondering lately if today will be the last time I do something, some small thing that formed the rich backdrop of my life. I also find myself wondering how many things I did for the last time without realizing it. It’s so easy to do, such a slippery slope. One day, you’re tired and you want a break. Not a forever break, just a short break. So you decide that you won’t do these things today. Letting things go for one day is fine. And so you do. You let it go. You put it down and you never pick it back up again.

When was the last time I didn’t have abdominal pain? When I felt healthy? What were those days like? What did I feel? What animated the world around me? I can’t remember. Years from now, when I look back, I won’t remember this moment either, or the meaning of these words. I won’t even remember writing them. How can any of this matter so much when I won’t even remember?

Every patient has a line where they stand their ground to not lose anything else. Every patient decides that this position must be held for as long as possible and that once this line is crossed, you can never go back. This is how I feel about eating. This is my line. It’s not that I can’t live with a feeding tube or on IV nutrition. It’s not that I find either of these options particularly repulsive. I just want to be able to eat. Such a simple, primal thing.

I have always felt that I have this little light inside of me, really deep, beneath all the swollen and damaged places. It has been dimming for years now. I have been cupping my hands around this tiny flame to keep it alive. But I can’t keep out the wind forever. I am only one person. And I am so, so tired.

I am afraid that I am approaching the last of the days when I can eat. I am afraid that this little light will wink out and nothing will replace it.