Life changed for me when two others ended; I started writing to remind myself of what I’d lost. For the first time longevity had a reference point, and I was compelled to place my own marker nearby. My father’s death inserted a defining line between what went before and all that would follow; Mom’s departure two years ago provided a gentle shove over that line. Dad died twenty years earlier, but that experience remains unreal to me. His brief bout with cancer, subsequent stroke, coma, final words and unblinking expression in return, the funeral with gospel music and my own reading in his honor; such memories are mental snapshots that still come unsolicited at the most unexpected moments. Mom’s death is a daily nudge that life is brief at best, but that the best lived story never really ends.

This fragile moment is a current, not an eddy, moving toward an emptying like the Mississippi into the Delta and Gulf beyond. You and I are part of a living stream. It is an earthy thing to look back at the origins of streams, but is also human nature to anticipate. Every backward glance should urge ahead. The instant we stop straining forward is the moment we stop living; the grand challenge is to detect something or someone for which to hope. To embrace this moment and anticipate the next with fascination breathes life and hope. The aging know this instinctively, even if we struggle to act on it. The young aren’t aware of it, but it is just as true for them. What I do with this moment matters because it forms a marker for those who follow; I am forging someone’s future memory of me. I’m not sure there’ll be anything left when I’m gone save the moral of my story, but that’s just the way I want it.

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