The Rest of Our Days

Today I learned that an old friend of mine is suffering from cancer. She is an entrepreneur, who has built up a thriving business in the past twenty-five years. She has traveled the world, met fascinating people, been married to a wonderful man, and raised beautiful children. She has battled cancer before; the last time was at least a decade ago, more, perhaps.

When she came home from the hospital after surgery, the last time, I decided my job was to get her out of the house for walks. We would bundle up, as it was still blustery and cold, and drive over to Orchard Beach in Pelham Bay Park. It's a wonderful park, especially off season when it isn't crowded; there is a long, crescent-shaped concrete promenade with arcades. The paving is smooth, and easy to navigate. In other words, there is nothing natural about it, except for Long Island Sound. Still, it was, for us, a deeply soothing place. We would walk very slowly, my arm crooked in hers; she would lean on me, every few steps, to rest, and then we would proceed. With every walk, we covered more of the promenade. From time to time, we would stop and lean against a hot concrete wall, and I would make jokes about how we were like those Russians in old photographs, starved for sunshine in the middle of winter. During those walks I would catch a glimmer of the future, beckoning us. This is what it will be like, I would think, this is what it will be like to grow old with friends; we will walk slowly, and lean on one another, and wait for each other to catch up, knowing that there is no longer a rush to get anywhere....And then I would brush that vision aside. Because we were always in a rush, a rush to get better, a rush to get somewhere--somewhere else, wherever we were not. Now of course I see that we would be lucky just to get back to that place, right where we were, contemplating our future old age together.

In the course of this afternoon's long talk, she said, "You know, people say that when something like this disease strikes you, you're supposed to think about what you are going to do with the time you have left--where do you want to go? Well, I've been to all kinds of amazing places. I've eaten at the finest restaurants. I've seen so much. None of that interests me now. I don't want to go anywhere. I just want to be at home. Do you know what I mean?"

Yes, I do. Many of us have spent our lives working hard, and mothering intensely, and loving deeply. And then something happens, some crack in the floor opens up, and we realize, suddenly, that there is one important thing we haven't done, and that has to do with a simple feeling of enjoyment. We haven't  given ourselves the time to appreciate what we've accomplished; we haven't allowed ourselves a rest, and a chance to absorb all that we've exposed ourselves to; we haven't given ourselves permission to be happy.

"Now I know what I want to do with the rest of my days," my friend said. "I just want to be at home." To be, with all the quiet, meditative activity such a verb implies, in the place where we feel safest, most secure, and most free--if only we let ourselves go there. In honor of my friend, I'm going to spend tomorrow at home, not making myself crazy with chores and housekeeping, not leaving to run errands, not sitting at my desk trying to meet deadlines, not worrying about everything or anything. I'm going to let the rosy glow of the sunrise reach me in my bed, feel its warmth across my face at midday, feel the moist heat of the soil as I dig around in the garden, feel the shadows lengthen across the meadow, and think about how, when we feel lost, we can find ourselves...at home.


Cristina said...

...as they say, "there's no place like home"!

david terry said...

Dear Ms. Browning,

What a lovely posting. Thank you. I expect you'll have once again struck a chord with many readers.

Not to spend all of my days telling you what to do with all of your 99 cents......but you should download this song (see link below). The poem is by Jane Yoland, and the song was written/sung by the inimitable June Tabor. I think you'll enjoy it on your Cistercian day at home.

"...La Bete et moi
deambulent dans les jardins
et marchent lentement sur les chemins de foret.
Il blanchi autour du museau
et j'ai des peignes d'argentes
assortis a mes cheveaux.
Je n'ai aucun regret....
from "Belle et Bete: une Anniversaire"---Jane Yolen, 1989

Go To:


Sincerely, and thanks again,

David Terry

Meg said...

Well said.

Speaking of enjoyment, I am having such a good time reading SLOW LOVE. I didn't expect it to be so funny! It makes me want to send an email blast to all my friends urging them to go buy this book right away. Thanks for the reading pleasure.

Judith Ross said...

This post takes my breath away.
Those of us who have survived cancer know how important home is. So glad you friend has a place to be and someone like you to lean on.

Barbara Hammond said...

Having gone through my husband's bout with cancer and watching him 'circle the drain' a few times, as one resident said, I know how hard it is for family and friends. You're a good friend Dominique! It makes a big difference having a good friend to turn to! I'm turning the journal I kept while my husband had cancer into an e-book. (he's 9yrs. cancer free btw) It should be ready soon, and the cost is just a donation to your cancer charity of choice. It will be available through my blog, zeroto60andbeyond.com.
So glad I found your blog! I'm picking up your book this afternoon!

mary said...

So true. To be "at home"--to have permission not to run away from the moment or ourselves. I'm still learning how to do that, but with practice I am finding that "at home" for me is to treasure the inner silence and the joy of oneness. Thank you for the wonderful post.

Jenny Ellwood said...

What a profoundly moving & inspiring article. I wish both you and your friend all the best in the coming days. You are both lucky indeed to have each other's friendship. Enjoy every moment of tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

i think you all would enjoy "If You Knew Suzy" a real celebration of life.

Vava (aka Virginia) said...

Home. Let's all revel and rejoice in it. What a dear friend you are!

Unknown said...

thank you for this post....so very real....authentic...smiles.

Jen said...

I'm truly sorry for your friend's suffering. Cancer has hit our circle of family and friends as well. It's an evil disease. I do hope you and your friend will be able to enjoying BEING with each other and resting together.

Mark In Mayenne said...

I thought your article in Wired hit just the right tone.

Nancy said...

I used to look in vain for a new book by you and now I have just finished your latest, Slow Love.....I need to read your writing as you express many of the things I think and feel......and now I have your blog and a treasure trove of your articles...I wish you much happiness and success in your new adventures.........

Maria Grasso said...

I just finished your book, savoring every chapter. In fact I waited 6 hours before finishing the last two. This entry resonates with me as did your book. I'm giving myself permission to enjoy my solitude. My slate is clear, in part I made this happen and in part the universe conspired to take away my hectic, draining schedule that often took more from me than it gave back. I used to fantasize about watching the sun move from room to room of my house instead of sitting in sterile offices in endless meetings. And here I am, wish granted. Your book, and this entry, reminded me how full my life can be even if I spend many hours alone. I'm making peace with my solitude and filling a space within myself that has been empty for a long time. Thank you for the joy your book and blog have brought me.

Mimi Paintbrush said...

Loss/tragedy ( in this case, cancer) is a universal experience.

The image of friendship that supports and loves during a crisis is what I hope I will be blessed with. For at 61, there will be loss ahead.

Being at home, safe and warm, has always been my comfort and security blanket. My tin roofed cottage, my gardens, all the sentimental bric a brac around me - give me a sense of past/present/ future that I treasure.

Loved your editorials in H&G, which led me to your books. I have shared them with like-minded friends. One of the small comforts of aging is having companions along the path who process the experience in a similar way.

Carolina said...

I am one of the lucky ones. Decisions I made when very young(marrying and leaving my home country), not knowing any better, led me to live far away from my primary family (parents, siblings), so I learned to enjoy solitude, learned to garden, learned to be self-suficient. But I couldn't have survived without friends.

Home. so many meanings ...

Unknown said...

How in one moment, things will change forever. Not a new realization, but this time of life seems to be so uncertain - your beautiful writing joins us all together.
Many thanks.

Unknown said...

I think the gift of a busy, adventurous, far-flung life is the knowledge that, if we are so fortunate, we might be allowed the chance to roost when it’s our choice to do so. To come home filled with memories and experiences and, when we need them most, the chance to savor each one again and again.
I often reply to someone who thinks I'm too busy or over-committed, that I hope when the day comes that I can no longer come and go as I please, I will have my cache of remembered sights, sounds and fragrances. And, they will comfort me and, perhaps, soothe the sting of bad news.
I hope your friend’s homecoming brings that kind of peace to her.

All Is Listening said...

Thank you so much for pointing us all back home. When four years ago I found myself laid up at home for what I thought at first might be a week or two, but ended up being months and then large swaths of the last four years, I discovered home. I discovered joy in my kitchen counters, happiness in my potted plants, thrill in making it to my yoga mat. But most importantly I started to soak in home so much that home came inside my body and I realized home was here in my presence and awareness, with me wherever I am. That being said, I still love long quiet days in my own space.

Thanks, Jasmine

fran Pelzman Liscio said...

home--soft, warm, accepting, familiar, and kind.
In december of 2007 i lost my best friend to an unusually aggressive cancer. one day, when she was due for a (futile) radiation treatment, I saw how wan and exhausted she looked. "do you want to cancel the treatment and just stay home?" i asked her.
she cried with relief and nodded yes.
she died less than nine days later, at home in her own bed, in the arms of those who cherished her.

Nancy said...

To many of us, particularly women, home has become a place of different to-dos. It is laundry, and cleaning, and email checking, and chores. We are always in preparation mode. But for what? For enjoying our homes. For enjoying solitude and offering its peace to others in our lives. This posting made me realize that we can fritter the day away with cleaning (and there is always just one more thing to do that to) or we can simply stop, stay in place, let our homes come down slowly over us. And reap what it is we are attempting, furiously, to sow. Thank you.

red ticking said...

dear dominique,
this is such a sweet post... i have had several friends pass (all in their 40's) in the last couple years and i have to remember daily that every day is truly a gift... and that all the stuff does not matter... it is family and friends health and love... period.

i am so enjoying your book... sincerely, pam robinson