It’s another bright and spring-like day in Portland, Maine. Grass is greening on the Eastern Promenade, and trees and shrubs are budding in earnest and even presenting tentative, unfurling leaves. Casco Bay appears as rippled blue-green glass this morning, busy with boats and bobbing seagulls. I still have the after-image of the Acteon Ridge as seen from the Sandwich Mountain Farm in Sandwich Notch, New Hampshire, where I spent last week. Things are on not so far along there: narrow islands of deep green fir, spruce, pine and hemlock are surrounded by just-flowering red maple and birch, a rusty transparent tinge that fades as it climbs the mountains. Jenning’s Peak and Sachem Peak break through with textured gray granite topped by blue sky and wispy clouds.
My week in the Notch was spent caring for my mother, Mary, who chose during these days to enter hospice care. While this marks a formal medical and legal threshold, she has been speaking of wanting to die for a few years now, and the death of my father in February took away her last stated reason to live: “To keep Nevin company.” My mother’s life right now is constrained by the limits of her body, though not by her mental abilities. Her memory and intellect remain strong. Her desire for her life to end seems very matter-of-fact. She is not looking forward to anything — the way forward for her, to death, isn’t interrupted by dreams of future gardens or grandchildren’s graduations. She has let these go. Her simple pleasures are watching birds at the bird feeder, gazing at a vase of daffodils, reading and enjoying the presence of her family. These are things to pass the time and she is a little impatient for death come. Continue reading