I doubt I'm alone in that I have these moments where I ponder life, both its meaning and its end. Dying is my greatest fear; it's not just that I've got this deep feeling that I'm not going to measure up to the standards that could get me past the Pearly Gates, or even that I'll be spending eternity wishing I hadn't bitched and moaned about spending my Living Years shivering through the 3 layers of goose bumps that seemed to crawl across my skin like fungus. A part of it is this niggling feeling that I've got it all wrong and there's nothing after this. We're born, we live, we die, and that's it.
I can't stand that thought. So I live on the idea that we're so hardwired to believe in something that comes after--whether you think there's a hell or not, how many levels of heaven there might be--that it has to be true. We can try to use logic to dismiss the notion of afterlife, but it's been a part of the human condition for as long as humans have been able to communicate; I can't fathom anything that long lived not being true.
(I'm not seeking debate on the matter. This is my gut feeling; you're free to listen to whatever gut feelings you have. We have gut feelings for a reason, for both good and bad.)
Most nights I wake up at some point, and I almost always wake with the same thought--I'm alive--as if it's a total surprise. Usually I fall right back asleep, and come morning that middle of the night waking feels like a distant memory, something stupid that I'd done years before that was mildly amusing to no one but myself.
But the last couple of months I've woken up, and while I'm not 100% awake, I haven't fallen back into those deepest places of slumber. I'm half awake, curled around a body pillow, sometimes with a cat pressed up against my chest, and I wait.
I haven't been entirely sure what I've been waiting for. I simply hold onto the pillow and breathe, or reach out and rub a furry little kitty head, and wait. I'm not waiting to fall back asleep, I'm just waiting.
And then last night I realized what I was waiting for; as Max stretched beside me, his paw sliding across my cheek in a most un-Max-like caress, I heard a soft bong...bong...bong... coming from the living room.
The clock. It was going through the machinations of announcing 3 a.m., and I realized that was what I was waiting for, the gentle bonging of the clock my father-in-law gave us last year, the clock he made by hand, each and every amazing, delicate cut of it.
And I realized it's the same time every night that I wake up; just before three a.m. I hold myself in that twilight of not quite asleep and not quite awake, and wait for that sound to drift up the stairs.
Max stretched and jumped off the bed, and I felt myself slipping back into sleep, chasing after fragments of a dream abandoned, wrapped in the comfort of having the music of the clock to cling to when I inevitably wake in the middle of the night.