The Boy Who Held Eternity in his Hand

“Love is the emblem of eternity; it confounds all notion of time; effaces all memory of a beginning, all fear of an end.” -Germaine De Stael

At the very end of the world, the universe swallowed itself whole, and everything died. Like insects of consequence wrapping black tendrils around a white sugar cube, all of reality winked out of existence. The end did not come as the snuffing out of a candle in an instant, but as the vanishing of a smile, the decomposition of a rose. The day my world ended was the day it all fell apart, the day I lost it all, one cypress’ eventide many winters ago.

The day my world died was the day I held eternity in my hand.

I could compose rhapsodies to the evolution of how her hand felt in mine. The breeze of a summer’s day rippling through fingers, her grip gentle yet firm, softening in the lullaby of lilting grasses, yet unwilling to lose me to the gathering winds of a seaside beach swept by footsteps slowly fading. Age eight. The blanketing of a midday Sun in clouds, the dousing of hot fires, the drying of tears with a tissue to my eye and a motionless hand to my trembling cheek. Age ten. The solidity of a steady, soothing hand on a grieving shoulder, moist eyes covered by quivering fingers, too old, too seasoned, too matured to open themselves to contact ever again. Age fifteen. Sometimes to mourn is to sift through snapshots in one’s mind like old photographs, and to anchor one’s thoughts in the substance of dissolving seashores. Sometimes to weep is to drown bitter memories in loss’ liquor, and to recollect only rose petals in a briar patch of thistles and sharp ends.

Time had left its impressions on my mother. Crinkled skin, weary shoulders, and mute eyes that know. Yet it had left her hands, not unblemished, but unstained. Her warm, feathery touch, though weary with age, felt as reassuring and solid as it always had, delicate yet sure within my clumsy, shaking fingers. I knelt at the foot of her bed, too weary to stand, too tired to move. I merely pressed my forehead against her hand and wondered if it was the end. She was smiling faintly. We were alone in the room, my mother upon a hospital bed and I, a man of thirty-five, reduced to a boy clinging to the hand of eternity as he watched it flicker and dance before him.

It was not long before she tugged at my hand and I looked up. She tried to speak, her voice coming out in murmured wisps of fading breaths. I raised my head closer to her, and as I kept my hand in hers, the whispered words of my sweet mother wafted into the recesses of my ear. “It’ll be like falling asleep to a piece of music you’ve never heard before and then dreaming about it. The body is ephemeral but the spirit lasts forever. Humans, we are flowers that die in this world but dream of waking up in another…”

And in a single moment, eternity was gone.

*I wrote this piece on Friday but tweaked it over the weekends. I only realized it was Mother’s Day this afternoon, or I might have written it with a more happy ending in mind. That said, Germaine De Stael’s words still resonate in my mind. Here’s to a mother’s love; like eternity, infinite, without end nor beginning. Happy Mother’s Day!