It is December 31st and Lois has not risen. It is late morning. It is the last day that she will taste the air in her own apartment, the last day that her near blind eyes will see light glinting on the hills, or pictures loved, the last day that she will know the warmth of her own blankets and pillow.
Other than a ride where she is bundled warmly onto a gurney, wrapped as an infant would be, other than a trip to Hospice House, she will not be getting up again. We will have no more walks, no more drives, not even any more shuffling from bed to chair, chair to bathroom, bathroom to bed. Lois will not walk again.
When she lived in Naramata, north of Penticton by a handful of vineyard-lined, topsy-turvy miles, she walked in some fashion every day for 25 years. Sometimes she went up the mountain. Sometimes it was fruit to be picked or sprinklers to move. Often there were walks to the lake, the store, or to a grandchild’s favorite park. Every day there were gardens to tend, flowers to mind, berries and vegetables to harvest, or Autumn leaves and Winter snows that would insist on feeling her footsteps.
She walked. I would guess that she walked tens of thousands of miles in her lifetime. As a child, a teen, a young adult in Vancouver she walked or she rode her bike. She took a bus or she boarded a streetcar. Lois was on her feet every day of her life except at the beginning, except at the end.
They were bookends really – the beginning, the end. The bookends were stationary. They were short seasons where all was still. Not unimportant, merely before and after, preparation and rest. Between them were stories, adventures, wonders, tears. Between them were bedtimes, funerals, laughter and fears.
Between those decades distant bookends were lines written with living, full of joy, of madness, anguish. There were songs in the morning. There were prayers in the night. There were scoldings and secrets and cravings. There was pain, delight. There were chapters, there were verses, heroes and villains, weddings, graveyards, betrayal and trust. There were riches beyond measure. There were lives, lived and lost.
And through every word of every part of her story, between every chapter – joyful, poignant, or broken – she walked: slowly, quickly, exuberant, angry, hopeful, wounded. Until today.
Today her shoes will remain beneath the old wooden chair that waits beside her bedroom door. Her boots will never again feel the chill of Winter or the moisture of a garden in Spring. Even her slippers will rest. Today her story is nearing its end and steps are not required. The final words are being written in these resting moments. Four more sleeps, four more chances to dream.
There will be four days of rest at the end of nearly 88 years of walking. It seems a fair trade. She has done well but she is weary and she is ready for the story to end. She is ready to turn the last page of the last chapter, to return her book to the shelf, well read, well loved, well lived. It is due. She is ready.
As she rests, she knows that her second bookend is finding its way onto the shelf, that her walking days are done. She knows that it props up her stories, allows her to finish her songs, to whisper her prayers, to give thanks one more time. She even knows that this bookend brings with it a coda, an epilogue, an appendix of sorts. She knows that she will be remembered.
Her story will be told again, and again, and again after that but only in the books of others. There will be laughter. There will be tears. There will be regrets and there will be joy in the morning.
Lois’ book is closed now. Her bookends are on the shelf. She will not walk again on Earth except in stories, except in dreams. Only there will she walk, and there her steps will be light. There her steps will be free.