Liminal…in Latin it is “limen”…threshold in English, so liminal is the threshold between two spaces. It is the place when you are on the verge of something new; you are between what was and what will be! You are waiting and not knowing about what will come to you.
I find myself approaching the age of eighty years in just over two weeks. How do I feel about this milestone? I will best describe it as a “liminal time” in my life. What do I mean? It is an in-between time; I have already lived 3-4 years longer than the average for American males…so I know that “death” is close, on the other side of my in-between space. Despite this grim sounding declaration: I choose to do my best to be present to this reality of my life. I think about what will happen when I take my last breath of air; is there something of Raymond that will live on when his physical body stops functioning?
There is a certain sense that our whole life is a liminal space between birth and dying. Certainly I remember, and have written about my first experiences of death as a child–going to funerals of family members and telling myself: ‘you better get started with your life, you’re not going to be here forever!’ That form of liminal space is real, but this new sense of the liminal is close at hand and there is not much room to get it wrong and try again!
This awareness of the closeness of death does not mean that you drop everything and just prepare for death. I made the decision last fall that I wanted to marry again after the death of my wife a year earlier. Susan and I have a relationship that is very real and intimate on many levels. Presently we are going through a shared experience of the Covid Virus-caring for each other as we see need. Even this illness has not deterred our enjoyment of the intimacy of sleeping together-touch and conversation savored only by the old who find new ways to be together as one. This morning I touched Susan’s breast and I found myself reflecting on other times in my life. I remembered myself at the age of 3-5 yrs. touching my mother’s breast and then touching a girl friends’ breast at the age of 14-15 yrs. This need for feminine intimacy–not overt in its sexuality, but perhaps tied more to my need for touch and closeness. I know that my need for touch was a driving energy that led me into marriage again.
Susan shares my need for touch and we have found synchronicity in our liminal state of being old together. We enjoy working together on creative projects-presently we are involved in producing a storytelling performance at a local theatre and recently we led a church service where I told a story and she preached a sermon based on the story theme! So we find ways to engage life despite the reality of death’s ever presences.
There is a gift in finding a balance in this liminal state at the end of life. We need to honestly engage the end of life issues and still be present to living life until that last breath of air. The balance I believe comes when we understand the reality of this liminal state. It is a state when we are on the verge of something new; we are between what was and what will be. All we can do is be present to what is passing and what will come to us as a new state of being!