We hit the following passage on a Friday afternoon a week and half ago. We were at the end of a get-through-it sort of a week, and I figured the best Language Arts lesson we could have at the end of a week like that was a good long read-aloud. So I read, and read, and read. And we got to “Wayfarers All”, the chapter about the Water Rat’s restlessness as other creatures were heading south for the winter and he was left behind, and it struck me deeply:
Restlessly the Rat wandered off once more, climbed the slope that rose gently from the north bank of the river, and lay looking out towards the great ring of Downs that barred his vision further southwards—his simple horizon hitherto, his Mountains of the Moon, his limit behind which lay nothing he had cared to see or to know. To-day, to him gazing south with a new-born need stirring in his heart, the clear sky over their long low outline seemed to pulsate with promise; to-day, the unseen was everything, the unknown the only real fact of life. On this side of the hills was now the real blank, on the other lay the crowded and coloured panorama that his inner eye was seeing so clearly. What seas lay beyond, green, leaping, and crested! What sun-bathed coasts, along which the white villas glittered against the olive woods! What quiet harbours, thronged with gallant shipping bound for purple islands of wine and spice, islands set low in languorous waters!
He rose and descended river-wards once more; then changed his mind and sought the side of the dusty lane. There, lying half-buried in the thick, cool under-hedge tangle that bordered it, he could muse on the metalled road and all the wondrous world that it led to; on all the wayfarers, too, that might have trodden it, and the fortunes and adventures they had gone to seek or found unseeking—out there, beyond—beyond!
I started a post later that afternoon, but before I could finish our computer was accidentally pulled off the table and the screen shattered, and I’ve been unable to access it until yesterday. Here’s what I was thinking that day:
Our family is getting a glimpse of two worlds right now. I don’t know how else to put it. We are going through our daily lives, busy with end-of-school-year activities, thinking about summer, doing dishes and laundry, fighting colds. At the same time, a loved one is dying. Each day this week our day-to-day, regular life has been interspersed with calls from my mom with updates on Gram’s physical and spiritual state. She is at peace. She smiles even in her sleep. She is in a physical state of decline. We are at peace; we rest in the faith that she is on her way to heaven, and that this is not a final goodbye but a long separation.
My grandma died that night. We miss her terribly, and are thankful for many good years and the chance to say goodbye before she passed. That time between worlds—well, it feels like a door has closed for now. And it may be a small thing, but I find I have a new friend in Kenneth Grahame, who wrote a book in 1908 that spoke into my life in 102 years later in a way that he probably never intended, but that I will probably never forget.
“To-day, the unseen was everything, the unknown the only real fact of life.”