The Rest of Forever

Jody had an unusual sense of mortality. While most of us know in an academic way that we will indeed die some day, in our hearts we don’t believe it. Time stretches to the horizon, and we are prone to squander precious days. Not Jody. Jody knew there was no forever.

            Maybe because she was a Christmas baby, she had a mystical turn of mind. When she was a child, she dreamed time was a river, sometimes wide, sometimes narrow, both calm and fierce, but always ending in obliteration in the sea of infinity. It made her aware at an early age how limited her time in the river was and the inevitable end that awaited. That knowledge informed the way she lived her life.

            Jody did the usual things: education, job, first apartment, friends, hobbies, but she did them mindfully, zestfully. This was especially apparent in December when she celebrated both her birthday and the season. She held a party every year, saying without irony that it was for her and baby Jesus. She filled her home with candles and greenery, set a fragrant pine stretching up to kiss the ceiling, and served delicious food and warm hospitality. There was always a crowd.

            Jody had loads of friends, but she never found The One, somehow. There were men in her life, romantic and platonic, but no marriage, no children. She enjoyed life as it was, although she felt a pang when she saw an old couple leaning toward each other, or when she passed a park full of children. Still, she trusted her journey on the river. She believed she was where she was meant to be.

            When Jody’s seventieth December came around, she felt old and tired for the first time. She was not up to throwing her usual party. There was no one special with whom to celebrate, after all. Her friends hastily assembled a pub gathering on December 23rd, running in to raise a glass and sing Happy Birthday before getting on with their lives. It was the eve of the Eve, after all, and people had places to go, things to do.

            A man at the bar watched the festivities, raising his own glass to her. When she finally sat alone staring at the Christmas lights around the mirror, he approached her.

            “Happy birthday,” he said. “I can’t believe the part about it being your seventieth, though. Mother Nature couldn’t possibly be so kind.”

            Jody gave him the wary smile she reserved for men in bars, but then she looked again. There was something different about this one. An energy, a glow that emanated from him like an aura. She liked the way his eyes crinkled at the corners when he smiled. What the hell; she wasn’t getting any younger. She took a chance.

            “Thanks,” she said. “Do you ever think of time as a river?”

            Unsurprised by the question, he considered it seriously. “I think life has currents that carry us and if we don’t fight it, if we go with the flow, we end up where we need to be. Do you believe in karma?”

            They talked for hours. They discovered they were both voracious readers and liked the same books, secretly wrote poetry, took long walks they refused to call hikes, loved being with people and loved solitude, watched Netflix movies, and got excited about Christmas. And yes, they both believed in time’s river and the turning wheel of karma. Was it one of life’s cruel ironies that they’d met so late in life? Were there any days left for them?

            Forever is composed of Nows, Emily Dickinson said. They agreed that they had Now.

            Each day counted; each day was a celebration of their life together; each day was golden. The roar of the infinite sea ahead could be plainly heard. Peacefully, hand in hand, they floated toward it. Their wedding bands held the inscription: For the rest of forever.

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