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Thinking Out Loud: Shifting Perspectives Toward the End of Life

A TGB READER STORY: The Redemptive Power of Sunsets

By Lynn Bechtel of Write on Harlow

I don’t have a full view of sunsets from my house but I can see a faint rosy glow, the edge of the sunset, through the branches of the evergreens at the back of the yard. Sometimes that faint glow draws me out of the house and down the block to a field where I can watch the full display across the valley.

My mother loved sunsets. She kept a journal beginning in 1966 – she would have been in her late fifties then. She wrote in it sporadically, an entry or two and then a gap of years before another entry. The last entry was dated 1976.

She wrote several times about the sunsets she could see from the kitchen window. In the first entry, written on a January afternoon, she describes a sunset that was a delicate rose in color with black tracing of tree branches.

She goes on to say how frustrating it is that my father and I didn’t see this beauty: “I say, ‘Look at the sunset – it’s fabulous.’ They say ‘yes, very nice’ and they don’t really see. It’s so beautiful it hurts.”

And she’s right. As a teenager I didn’t see the sunsets – or at least I didn’t see what she saw – the painful beauty of them.

I wrote about sunsets in my own journal once a few years ago. I’d had a string of conversations with friends who were dealing with illnesses of various kinds. I wrote about driving home from work along the river one winter afternoon.

The sun was setting behind the hills across the river and it took my breath away - the hills, the scarlet sky, the reflection in the river. I wrote that I wanted to give this sunset to my friends as an antidote, a balm, something to hold onto when all else seemed to be giving way. The redemptive power of sunsets.

Maybe that’s what my mother saw in sunsets those many years ago. I wish I could come up behind her, circle my arms around her waist where she stands at the sink, rest my chin on her shoulder and see the sunset along with her. Yes, it’s gorgeous, I’d say.

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


Comments

Writing as beautiful as any sunset! Well done.

Really lovely, poignant, and so true. Thank you.

Lovely!

I'm always the first to say, "Wow, look at that sunset!" The view from my house is now almost completely obscured but I go immediately to webcams in the area to enjoy the show. I used to "share" them with my son when I could see them from my apartment window and he was driving home from work; we were looking at the same thing. Sunsets over the Rockies are magnificent!

Beautiful piece; you write very well. Thanks for sharing!

One of the best readers' stories, maybe because I'm quite partial to sunsets (and sunrises, for that matter).
Thank you!

Just beautiful.

Nature is always a solace.

Thank you.

I also am a lover of sunsets and sun rises although I don't have a view from our current home.

Years of traveling to obscure beaches for camping, surfing, or snorkeling were always a time to enjoy the beauty of nature, including sun sets and rises.

On the morning my mom died on Nov. 2, as I drove in the very early morning to her assisted living facility, there was a spectacular sunrise which brought tears to my eyes.

When I got to her bedside, although she was already unconscious, I told her about the sunrise and told her it was a good day to die. She had already been struggling for several days but hadn't been able to let go.

She died within an hour of my arriving. Don't know if she heard my words, but the reminder of the sunrise stays with me.

Beautiful writing!! Thank you, Lynn.

Your story reminds me of an Edward Abbey quote, "There is beauty, heartbreaking beauty, everywhere."

Very nice. My mother loved sunsets, too. Needless to say, at that point in time, I did not.

Lovely story so well painted..

What a lovely and poignant story. And readers have left some lovely comments as well. Thank you everyone.

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