Silent Night

“Do not go gentle into that good night,”

It’s nearing dusk and the last shards of amber light wrap around the building protectively. The tinted rays transform the peeling paint and rusty fence into a time-worn photograph. Only the swaying of the ancient dogwood’s leaves break the stillness.Everyone has their own gift. That is what Jenny’s mother had said time and time again. You might fail at gardening, or do poorly on a quilt, or even falter as you try to fit humanity’s image of itself, but everyone has their own gift. Something a crippled leg cannot destroy, something a memory loss cannot erase, something all of your own. Jenny had clung to that hope, that promise, and struggled her way through school. Remembered that promise as she faced down her tormenting peers. Now she opens the door and stands with the dogwood in the dusk.

Everyone has their own gift.

“Old age should burn and rave at close of day;”

It is nearing dusk, and the nightwinds gather in the shadows of the town. They twirl and dance, sweeping the streets clean of daylight and calling the night watch to awake. They brush against the whiskers of a raccoon, and tweak the feathers of a sleeping barn owl. They pause to wrap around a silent procession as it makes its way to the amber building.

She watches as they come to stand quietly before her, their coats torn and matted, their eyes dimmed with pain. They stand there as the sun retreats from the growing darkness and the dogwood waits in silent attendance. Then she kneels and they move towards her, stiffly and uncertain, but without fear.

“Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

They touch noses to her face, and bow their heads beneath her hand. So much passes in that silent communion. Jenny meets each hopeless eye, and comforts each fading life. In return they shower her with memories. The twisting run of a fleeing rabbit, the smell of trees, the last sparkling memories of their youth. Then it is over and they move away, looking from her to the motionless building. She tries to rise, but her leg fails her. Before she can fall there is a smooth grey back beneath her hand. With his help she rises and moves inside.

“And you, my father, there on the sad height,”

Inside there is noise. Life. They pause at the threshold and whine their worries. She turns and smiles, slowly, slowly they enter. The smooth grey back beneath her hand has not faltered, and helps her to the small side room. It is quieter there, away from the youth and vigor that barks and yowls for their freedom.

“Iiii ccannnot…” she begins, the stutter reducing her words to sounds. She stops and bows her head, tears coursing down tanned cheeks. “Iii’m ssssorry.” They press close again, and wash the tears away. Each touch brings shadows of comfort, glimmers of forgiveness. The large grey back is attached to a age-whitened head. It looks at her, eyes free of blame. She wipes away vanished tears and moves to the cabinets. “Ffforggive mme.”

“Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears I pray.”

One by one they move towards her and take a gift from shaking hands. All but the last. The old grey looks into grief-stricken eyes and turns away from the needle. She needs him, he will stay. Jenny crumples to the ground surrounded by ancient eyes, and tired souls. But where there was hopelessness and pain there is the sad sweet joy of release. They touch her gently, kindly, as they die. A thousand memories, a dozen lives, and a deep comforting forgiveness wrap soft around her.

“Do not go gentle into that good night,”

They are strays, abandoned pets. They are the old and life-tired remnants, and they cannot go on. Once they crawled from street, from den, from kennel, and from house, deep into the wood to die. Now they come here. To the pound. To a quiet peaceful death. All because of one frail human… who will understand.

Everyone has their own gift, and no one should have to die alone.

“Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
____________________________________

The poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” is by Dylan Thomas, of course.


Leave a Reply