Another Bridge

Don’t look too far ahead. At the tsunami headed our way.

Don’t look up from the path in front, the next footstep in front.

Watch out for rabbit holes and landmines, 

They are everywhere as we navigate these end-of-days times.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”  

Those words have become our mantra. They have become our lifeline.

But what happens when she can’t walk? When she won’t eat? Won’t drink?  

What do we do when she doesn’t remember our names, no longer recognizes our faces.  

How do we manage as other things fall off the cliff, her ability to talk, to keep her head up, to swallow…?

Good God. What happens when she can no longer swallow?

We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, we say. 

To keep our sanity, to keep the fear at bay. 

When we get the next test results, 

When she loses another piece of herself,  

We’ll cross that bridge.

Swallow the fear, swallow the sorrow. 

Put on a smile and put another foot down in front of the other.

Sometimes there are weeks between bridges, sometimes only days.  

Sometimes the bridge collapses mid-way and we go tumbling down into the chasm.

All the while, we scream and rage and weep, and beg for a respite, beg for a break.  

A respite from the urgent texts, the frantic calls.

She fell, she won’t eat, she was sick last night.

From the next emergency, 

The next trip to the hospital, 

The next round of tests.  

As we drop to the next level of leaving. 

With each bridge, a call for more willpower, 

With each prayer, the ability to accept another loss, 

Then we put the smile back on and take another step, 

And cross another bridge.

We delude ourselves for a while with how strong she is, what force of character she has, as she turns to us more and more for help, like a child, a baby.

Help me stand, help me sit, help me rise from the toilet, help me eat.

Though we swore we never would, we have come to rely on the television and her naps, 

To take a shower and wash the dishes and prepare a meal and catch up on work 

Or a desperate conversation with a friend.

But, bit by bit, the options will narrow.

There will be no more tests, there will be no more treatments, 

Those solutions are no longer possible.  

There will be no more heroic life-saving options.

The hope is dwindling, 

There is no alternate route, 

No exit from this road we’re on.  

No secret offramp where we can avoid the inevitable.

There are only footsteps and bridges and tears and anger and resentment and heartbreak.  

All the stops on this scenic route to the end.

So, I’m looking for the light here, looking for the hope.  

When all I feel is the closing of my throat, the clenching of my heart.  

But all I can do is cross another bridge,

Take another step,

Put on another smile,

Go another day.

Until one day, at some point, in a future near or far, 

We will cross that last bridge 

And we will have to say 

Goodbye.

And then the tsunami will crash and the earth will shake and our hearts will break.

And then, up out of the ashes, and up out of the debris,

A new road will rise up. A road to be taken

One step at a time, 

One day at a time,

One bridge at a time.

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