Ritardando

I am younger, more resilient perhaps. If there are several layers of thought within the brain then this is the predominant thought in this superficial layer, the thought that insists I am younger, more resilient and not as distraught; stronger, not requiring support but capable of providing it. 
Then there are these other deeper layers where thoughts of loss reside. I remember standing there on the Lake Cazenovia pier, watching the July 4th fireworks shooting up through the sky, dissipating into blackness. There was some foreshadowing there, a thought that I kept rejecting.  
On July 5th I walked around in several loops around our residential complex while reciting the words of a mantra that a punditji had had me memorize after my car accident in May of 1989. This mantra, one is told, keeps one safe and alive. I didn’t question it then. I have been reciting it without fail every time I take my steering wheel in hand.
So, on July 5th, I walked and recited and walked and recited, aiming for several multiples of the magic 108 number while keeping his visage in mind. But, unbeknownst to me, things had kept worsening during that night. I left for Canada that afternoon.  
The next seven days were about to become the last seven; the part of the music that says “rit,” [ritardando] underneath the last few measures of a lifelong performance that had stunned audiences over several breathtaking movements.
Since then I think of his eyes, sharp till the end, giving us hope because there was no listlessness, no dullness. I recall his unstated need to take both of mom’s hands in his own during his last few hours. 
At no point during five of those last seven days did I feel as though there would come a time when he would cease to exist in a physical form. On the sixth day the doctors came around with their talk of comfort, trying to convince us that it was all that could be done. My tears came unbidden then, like a reflex, while nodding at whatever the doctor was saying. But hope remained. Hope digs in, it makes itself a home until it out stays its welcome.
I think about this mantra now, the one I believed was intended to keep us safe and alive, and I realize how deluded I was about the intent behind these words. I have only a rudimentary understanding of Sanskrit but I now believe it is intended to facilitate the transition out of a physical existence and into the realm of pure consciousness. It is a prayer for an easy dissolution of all ties that bind as one moves on – urvarukmiv bandhanan mrityormokshiyamamratat.
The ritardando we witnessed had been a conscious effort by him over a few months and not just during the last few days. He was giving away his clothes, minimizing his intake of sustenance, withdrawing from all old interests, very consciously trying to exist in just a sliver of space, urvarukmiv…
The music slowed down and stopped. He takes up no physical space now, just the one that fills every corner of our minds.
I live through my days in a “normal” way, appearing sanguine, addressing all matters of importance that I need to address because I am still taking up space, taking in oxygen and sustenance. We share memories with each other and tell each other of our vivid dreams where he appears to bring us wisdom and succor. Then I look around my home and think of the brilliance of his efforts to minimize, to make his footprints smaller, to make all his ties tenuous. 
It is a thought that mesmerizes and sticks around.

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