from ‘The Leave-Taking’ by Ray Bradbury, i.m. Shané

This is the ending from Ray Bradbury’s story The Leave-Taking, posted here in loving memory of Shané, who sadly passed 29th October, 2017. It was a personal favourite of hers and one she used in her teaching:

 

Important thing is not the me that’s lying here, but the me that’s sitting on the edge of the bed looking back at me, and the me that’s downstairs cooking supper, or out in the garage under the car, or in the library reading. All the new parts, they count. I’m not really dying today. No person ever died that had a family. I’ll be around a long time. A thousand years from now a whole township of my offspring will be biting sour apples in the gumwood shade. That’s my answer to anyone asks big questions! Quick now, send in the rest!”

At last the entire family stood, like people seeing someone off at the rail station, waiting in the room. “Well,” said Great-grandma, “there I am. I’m not humble, so it’s nice seeing you standing around my bed. Now next week there’s late gardening and closet-cleaning and clothes-buying for the children to do. And since that part of me which is called, for convenience, Great-grandma, won’t be here to step it along, those other parts of me called Uncle Bert and Leo and Tom and Douglas, and all the other names, will have to take over, each to his own.”

“Yes, Grandma.”

“I don’t want any Halloween parties here tomorrow. Don’t want anyone saying anything sweet about me; I said it all in my time and my pride. I’ve tasted every victual and danced every dance; now there’s one last tart I haven’t bit on, one tune I haven’t whistled. But I’m not afraid. I’m truly curious. Death won’t get a crumb by my mouth I won’t keep and savor. So don’t you worry over me. Now, all of you go, and let me find my sleep…”

Somewhere a door closed quietly.

“That’s better.” Alone, she snuggled luxuriously down through the warm snowbank of linen and wool, sheet and cover, and the colors of the patchwork quilt were bright as the circus banners of old time. Lying there, she felt as small and secret as on those mornings eighty-some-odd years ago when, wakening, she comforted her tender bones in bed.

A long time back, she thought, I dreamed a dream, and was enjoying it so much when someone wakened me, and that was the day when I was born. And now? Now, let me see…. She cast her mind back. Where was I? she thought. Ninety years…how to take up the thread and the pattern of that lost dream again? She put out a small hand. There… Yes, that was it. She smiled. Deeper in the warm snow hill she turned her head upon her pillow. That was better. Now, yes, now she saw it shaping in her mind quietly, and with a serenity like a sea moving along an endless and self-refreshing shore. Now she let the old dream touch and lift her from the snow and drift her above the scarce-remembered bed.

Downstairs, she thought, they are polishing the silver, and rummaging the cellar, and dusting in the halls. She could hear them living all through the house.

“It’s all right,” whispered Great-grandma, as the dream floated her. “Like everything else in this life, it’s fitting.”

And the sea moved her back down the shore.

© Ray Bradbury

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