Don’t Go Back to Sleep.

Photo credit: skyand telescope.com

Photo credit: skyand telescope.com

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.
~Rumi

 

I’ve been waking between 3 and 4am often for the past few weeks but not for the usual reason. My baby is sleeping soundly. It’s funny how this happens. On the nights I have the opportunity to sleep solidly through, maybe even 8 hours, something else wakes me. Sometimes it is just my mind in a random tumble of thoughts and I can slowly, eventually, find my way back to sleep again. But sometimes its more than that. Lately, I fall asleep thinking about my friend and at 3:30am in the morning I am awake again thinking about my friend.

My friend’s name is Orion. He turned sixteen a couple months ago. He is dying of cancer.

Each one of these days that slip away quietly into the night are among the last few he will spend here. Each of these dark hours that eventually lighten with the sun again, they are counted. They are limited. Each one matters more now to Orion and his family than they ever have. Because there is a deadline that is tangible and terrible and real. Most of us don’t get to know our deadlines even though we all have them. I’ve though a lot about what this means.

 

So I don’t try to go back to sleep. I get up and I go and sit. I sit with my friend Orion through the early morning hours.

Orion lives nearby but in my own living room I light a candle. I think of it as taking my shift. Sometimes I pray, though I really don’t exactly know how to define prayer. My heart talks without words. Though the purpose is unclear, I feel this is my work. To sit and breathe with my friend as he prepares to transition, to hold vigil, to hold space. And somehow this feels like the most that I can do.

And so I sit. And I wait for the sun.

And when the first light hits the tops of the trees across the ridge and I hear my son begin to rustle in his crib and let out those first small whimpers that tell me the day has begun again, I am so glad I didn’t go back to sleep. They are the most miraculous sights and sounds I could ever imagine.

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