Dying Women

They never see it coming. Because she was beautiful in every way, to those in her care. She held them when they shivered. She warmed them with her patient attention and chicken pot pie. She was the constant in the darkness. She was the answer to their frantic cries. And they’ve never thought of life without her.

They never see it coming. Because she was vital to their path forward. Her smile shined like polished marble. Her steady arm held their dreams up high. She had been built up on a solid foundation to stand them up to the world. Her eyes watched over the wisdom of the ages. Her hands clung to the light of the future. She had always treasured her wide-eyed children deep in her breast. And they couldn’t even imagine life differently.

She never sees it coming. Because life meant something, and she also had hope. She believed her purpose. They needed her, they listened to her, she was made for their inspiration. She may not have chosen any of this, but her way was unquestionably clear. Keep them, protect them, feed their souls, comfort their fears. They love her, and she loves them. And she couldn’t imagine a life any other way.

But just last year, I saw her. In pieces. Crumbled, shattered, dust dampened glow. Weathered wrinkles chipped into her soul, an unrecognizable remnant of her Creator’s hand. Volumes of pictures and pages and colors and lyrics, gone. Empty, whispering ghosts of the glory that used to be. Words disintegrated, where whitewashed columns can barely stand. Dear Celsus of Ephesus, you became once-upon-a-time.

I know she never saw it coming. That her pretty dress would become shabby and rotten with every passing year. That her lovely face would end up tarnished with abandonment. That the excitement in her heart and soul would be plundered and trampled. That she now sits alone, unable to attract love, attention, barely a visitor to share her lonely afternoon. Once cherished. Now forgotten. Once full of life. Now a cracking shell of no one’s memory.

And just this year, I saw her again. A different face, a younger story, but the same tragedy of a beautiful woman. Built for desire, hope and purpose. She was still laughing boldly at the ever uncertain future. Still pointing to the heavens with an unwavering confidence. Refreshing the facade for those who still trust in her. But I saw the hairline cracks along her eyes that she tries to hide. I noticed the fading gleam of her honored crown. Her determined stare forward looks different than it used to, now just trying to pretend her torch is not going out.

She may not see that it is coming. That her reign and rule will take it’s place in the great timeline of an empire’s abstraction. She could never imagine herself like those other women. Grown old and replaced by another beauty. Hope muted by time’s shovelfuls of disappointment. A raped and ruined placeholder in history. An illusion of strength, when her children finally turn to eat her alive. Dear Lady Liberty, it happens to all of us, don’t be afraid.

Because even today, I see her. Nursing her babies. Holding their hands, protecting them from the strangers and deadly cars in the street. Feeding them a healthy dinner, rocking them to sleep. Encouraging their independence, driving them to work for themselves. She has energy, and resolve. Until she doesn’t. When more becomes too much. When they begin to look for another hope. When they leave and abandon, and her everyday slips into to meaningless. She will fall silent. She always does. Even if she doesn’t expect it will happen to her.

And they, too, never see it coming. All who hope and trust in the beautiful women of the earth. They cannot imagine life without her. Guiding, smiling, strong, and safe. Nurturing, giving, feeding adoring. But she does come to an end. Her strength withers. Her breath turns shallow. Her children grow. Her wisdom dies. Her constitution fades. Her empire crumbles. And she, like every good creation on the earth, is left to remember Who the one true hope has always been.