It seems as if almost overnight, the season has altered as the days begin to draw in; the sun is lower in the sky, strange new breezes are arriving, cooler, laden with unsettling suggestions of changes to come. I've just finished watching the last episode of the wonderful The Duchess of Duke Street
, which has stretched over two decades and through The Great War, which brought so many changes and losses. Louisa comments to a very dear old friend, who has just shared that he, too, will be leaving to marry, "I feel as if my world is getting emptier."
I know just what she means. At this point in my life, now into my 6th decade, I've seen far more people go than enter into this, my earthly experience. I grew up with a very large family about me, grand and great grandparents, dozens of aunts and uncles, more great and great-great relatives, and herds of cousins all about — 1st, 2nd, 3rd once and twice removed — how did they all vanish in such a short time? I can remember when I was told that the first of my many formidable aunts had made her transition . . . standing at the table in the kitchen, I felt some kind of bewildering shift take place in my life, a tectonic plate that had been unknown and inactive, now suddenly moving and displacing under my feet to accommodate her absence; the family tree was being pruned by some Great Hand. Of course, more blossoms and fruits arrived in the form of nieces and nephews, and a few pests disguised as in-laws, but they felt more like afterthoughts placed in newer and relatively more stable areas of life, of which they had much more left than us original settlers.
As the years passed, more branches were damaged or lost in the many storms of life. Less than a couple percent of my social circle survived the AIDS plague of the 80's and 90's, including Tim — well over 100 people in all. Every time someone made their transition, it felt as if the long, long line I'd been standing in for many years got shorter as it moved me forward, slowly but inevitably to the front, where it became clear there was a door of some kind. Sometimes I would notice that someone behind me had vanished as well. My world was getting emptier.
It has always been with immense gratefulness that I was also aware of many of the intrepid travelers as they journeyed into their new Risen lives; some kept in touch, but most did not, for all kinds of reasons too weird and even wonderful to try to explain here in human terms. Those who stayed or lingered long enough assured me, without any doubts, that I've not been forgotten either, and that what I experience as "life" here is incomparable with what's waiting for me on the other side of the door. Someone from There once gave me the comparison of a spark flying out of a campfire, up into the darkness, so fast its journey couldn't be seen in any great or lasting detail. I am such a spark, and will soon enough be joining the stars overhead. I rest in total assurance that what's on the other side of the door is beyond my wildest dreams, that there are more people awaiting my arrival there than who left me here, and that "a way has been prepared for me." My world will fill back up so instantly and vibrantly, with more magic and fun, companionship and learning, people and animals, that I will scarcely even remember ever having been a spark from a lonely campfire.