For some time now I have compared myself to a duck in a shooting gallery, surrounded by other ducks that keep disappearing as they get shot down. In the past week, two more ducks have flown. One was my former next-door neighbour in Stratford. We apparently had a lot in common: four children each, one of each family born on the exact same day/date. I think she moved from Stratford before I did, but after my husband died. She was very kind to me, out of a well-intentioned pity. We really did not have much in common, just surface similarities. Forty years after my husband's death, we were reduced to Christmas cards, polite nods to our distant past. She died last week, still with an almost intact husband. I mean, they were both on walkers, struggling. He couldn't help her when she fell on the floor with her heart attack. I've been picturing that all week, running it in my mind like a scene from a movie.
The other duck lived in my apartment building, dying at home after putting up a valiant and vain struggle. (It's never a struggle; it's always a lose-lose situation.) She emerged from my really distant past, having been part of my Winnipeg milieu, connected with my brother. When my brother died about four years ago, she wrote me a beautiful letter; she was the only person in the east who even knew I had a brother. I went to her funeral, memorial service, that is, no coffin, just some sincere, heart-felt and informative memories recalling her life. Her husband is also still living. I do feel great compassion for these two men. Like me, they are surviving ducks, but worse off.
Little by little, life is being prized from our grasp, finger by finger. I used to think my mother was grand-standing or seeking pity when she commented on how little time she had left, though she was not sick. She would give me some instruction, something to remember when she was gone. I do that, too, now, and I recognize the words for what they mean. I am not seeking sympathy, I'm just pointing out a fact, not so much to my listener (if she's listening) but to myself, reminding myself of the fact of my mortality, ever looming. Memento mori, and all that.
I do wish spring would come.