When I was young, I would have slept even if the world had collapsed around me. Ÿuan Mei, a Chinese poet who lived in the 18th century, wrote: ”...but then I remember my youth, I remember my snoring was loud like thunder and I slept my mornings like struck by a lightning.” But age changes things. When you feel stressed, you easily wake up in the early hours and begin to turn over in your mind all kinds of troubling thoughts.
I recently read in the news that 1.2 million Finnish people live alone. Maybe someone else is awake with me. But that is not much of comfort. Life in all its nuances is unique to each of us. Especially during the night, with the daytime sounds and sights missing, everything may seem incredibly difficult. It seems like a big rock is hanging above my head, full of worries, feelings of guilt, failures, negligence, depression and threats. Colors disappear. The future seems desolate. My past life appears vivid and clearly defined, as if I were standing in a nightmarish courtroom.
I feel I have failed in just about everything. When I really revel in my somber thoughts, I feel swallowed up into tragicomic chaos. In my lifetime I have accepted many different tasks and struggled hard to accomplish them, but now I feel a complete failure. Even the deaths of close relatives and pets seem due to my ineptitude. I even feel sorry that, living single, I have not been able to give my parents the joy of having grandchildren.
And I worry about financial matters. I have lived without any big plan and will have loans to pay back until I die. And there will not be enough money for my funeral before someone first sells my apartment and my belongings. And who would do that? There is no way I could describe myself as a RICH old maid?
And what about when my condition further deteriorates? When I no longer hear or see, my senses fail, and I cannot even walk properly any more. I had a foretaste of this at the summer services: as soon as I arrived, I stumbled on a fixing rope of the big tent. When we were young, we ran around the tents, jumping over the ropes like kangaroos – now I can hardly lift my leg high enough.
There are more things to do than I will ever have the strength for. My old home in the country has tilting floors that should be fixed. My late mother’s wheel walker already rolled to the other side of the room on its own. Paints are peeling. The sauna wall is so soft that you could punch a hole in it with your fist. Oh dear! I could say like the elderly sister who had come, after a long time, to see her home, which used to be a tall, handsome building. She had stood in the middle of the yard, looking at the run-down old house and said, quoting a song of zion: ” will lose their luster, break and fade. You cannot take them to the grave.”
But my deepest grief cannot be put into words. The pain that so many of my dear ones live without the security of faith. It is best to get up and just look out of the window. The world is still there, unchanged, the night sky, the stars, and the first shimmering light of dawn. I still have enough of yesterday’s faith left to help me get started: "Dear God, help!" ”Help me and the Lithuanian old lady!” I got this message from a friend who was visiting a church in Vilnius and saw an old lady sitting hunched in the pew.
The points of the compass are there and will never change. If this were a late winter night, I would see the Orion constellation in its majestic beauty in the south, diagonally crossed by a straight line of three stars, Orion’s Belt. And underneath the Belt the Orion nebula, ”the window into the glory of heaven”, as it used to be called by old people. But no, it is not the real window into the glory of heaven. That window is quite near, here on earth.
In the morning the world seems normal. The somber fatality of the night has faded away. A beeping garbage truck reverses into the neighboring yard. Commuter traffic is increasing. My coffee maker gurgles. It is nice to open the morning paper: the political situation is intriguing. As are many other things. In the night I would not have believed I could ever find them the least bit interesting.
Text: Tuula Stång
Translation: Sirkka-Liisa Leinonen
You will find the original finnish blog post here.
Poikkeusolojen vuoksi radion ja netin välityksellä lähetetyt Suviseurat saivat kuulijoiden palautteen perusteella positiivisen vastaanoton. Historiallisten Suviseurojen järjestelyt sujuivat suunnitelmien mukaisesti, eikä suurempia häiriöitä ilmennyt. Seurojen keskeinen sanoma välittyi kaikkialle maailmaan ja seurapuheet käännettiin yhdeksälle kielelle.