Technically, it wasn’t eavesdropping, but I felt like I had invaded sacred space when I opened the spiral notebook next to the bear and fish lamp on the bedside table. We had just arrived after dark at one of our favorite getaway locations in the Arbuckle Mountains of Oklahoma, where a serpentine assortment of small wooden structures dot a ridge just of north of Honey Creek. Our preferred dot is officially designated Cabin #4; it is the second cabin you come to when slowly ascending the narrow gravel path. The structure itself is less than awe inspiring, but the cantilevered wooden deck overlooking Honey Creek and small but persistent water fall of several feet down below has climbed near the top of our list of favored short term retreats. My wife and I have our own accepted duties when settling in to overnight lodging away from home. I unload the vehicle of essential cargo while she arranges sleeping quarters and then tends to kitchen accoutrements. Having completed a couple of trips between Jeep and cabin and properly stowing our limited gear for the weekend, I turned my attention to inside the cabin. I like this place with its mock log interior and exterior, moose and bear pillows, and pictures ruggedly framed and strategically arranged to engender the tenor of a remote bungalow aloft the high lonesome in some wilderness location. Nice try– this is Oklahoma, but I give an ‘A’ for effort and appreciate the rugged, if not slightly stereotyped, decor.
Beside the queen sized bed near center stage is a small pine nightstand adorned with only two items. The first is a black metal lamp consisting of a bear holding a fish in its mouth at the base, and a lampshade adorned on four sides by hoof prints that I assume are supposed to be those of a moose. The other object is a zebra print spiral notebook on which someone has written in ink, Cabin #4. It contains personal messages recorded by previous guests, sentiments intended to express appreciation to the owners for pleasant surroundings. I opened the notebook and skimmed through the entries until I came to one dated 4-19-15. It read:
“I’m not sure who is reading this, but these are my last days. I wanted to be free, hear water, feel air for the last time. Who knows how long we have, but at this very moment I’m gonna live to the fullest and this place feels healing and free. Thank you. Brittany”
A lump formed involuntarily in my throat as it dawned on me that I was reading what well may have been someone’s final confession. I turned the page to see if anything followed and found one other paragraph from Brittany:
Truly, I am still here. Beautiful. Love it. Better than a hospital today. Felt good. I got all the way in the water…. Anyway. I live!!! As long an full as u can. This may be the last getaway I get until the ultimate getaway. Up. Heaven doesn’t sound too bad. I love God. I need help, but he will be there. He’s here now. Thank you, Brittany”
She had recorded these thoughts six months before, and only God knew if she still lived or if, in her own words, she had made the “ultimate getaway.” Either way, her words struck a resilient chord. She had found a way to yell at the top of her pen that she was here; life matters, and she was part of everything that made sense in the world even when it stopped making sense to her. I closed the notebook, returned it to its familiar place, and sat on the love seat against the wall. Without intending to do so I said aloud “Goodbye”; in retrospect it was more prayer than parting resignation. “It was a long while ago that the words God be with you disappeared into the word goodbye, but every now and again some trace of them still glimmers through” (Buechner, Whistling in the Dark). I shut my eyes, prayed for a woman I’ll never meet, and asked the Father to enable me to fully live and do so with influence until my own goodbye.