• Kelsey Hency

When Will It End?

Certain details of my dream remain fixed, while others change with the night.


The class I forget to attend, for roughly an entire semester, is always science or math—no doubt, a summons of waking life and my relative lostness after biology and beginning algebra. Some final exam or assignment looms large and, beyond it, a graduation fading in and out.


Furniture and faces, circumstances and their significance, shift shape. But my charge, as murky as it is clear, repeats like the rhythms of a scratched record—to recover what I missed and bring an unattainable body of knowledge to bear before my future falls away.


In the light of day, I mention my recurring dream online, asking When will it end? Friends and strangers reply: some version of this vision lasts another 20 years, maybe forever. I can’t help but notice how the call and its response transpose across so much of life.


 
News breaks, and loved ones talk past each other. Where they usually sow peace, the need to say something leaves bruises. I watch and I ask When will it end?
 

Maybe everything we write resembles one Psalm or another. I long to copy “The Lord is my shepherd” or “His love endures forever” over and over in large, looping letters. Watch me place hearts over the i’s like a smitten schoolgirl. Before finishing a single sentence, though, I turn the pencil around, erasing the script till it rips. All I manage across the tender page is “How long, O Lord?”


News breaks, and loved ones talk past each other. Where they usually sow peace, the need to say something leaves bruises. I watch and I ask When will it end?


I preach relationship over transaction, prize a life spent asking “How are you” and not “What have you done for me lately?” Then a peer passes the bill for their half of our relationship across the table. When will it end?


Friends open their curtains and dust particles disperse across the light, testifying to fraying mental health. I recognize and absorb the ache. When will it end?


Circles collapse into each other—the anxiety tucked into my marrow grows the same in my son, then returns to my soul as shame. When will it end?


All the sighing into nowhere and shortness of breath; all the trying your best; all the drivers yelling nonsense as they pass sidewalk runners; the missed connections and misread signals; the words which stop short of lips or pen, dying for lack of air; the 11 p.m. steps upstairs and toward a night’s sleep that never plays the right R.E.M. melody; all the everyday indignities; and all the “little bandages” which “add up to a coffin, baby,” as the Trampled by Turtles song goes. When will it end?


One of our living Psalmists, Andrew Peterson sets the end against a handful of chords. With a voice like a viola, he describes the moment just after wars and gossip, hunger pains, corrosion and abuse cease.


“And in the end, the end is oceans and oceans of love and love again,” he sings.


Like Peterson, I believe the end is near; help my unbelief. What faith I hold tells me the God who dreamed up the honeybee and knows its venom will forever remove the stinger, then reverse the violence visited upon every living thing.


 
But here I sit, small and impatient, wishing something would end before the end.
 

But here I sit, small and impatient, wishing something would end before the end. Just one thing—any damn thing—for the sake of my beloveds, for the sake of breathing easier.


Redemption draws closer all the time, the theologians tell me. If it’s true and Earth’s every inch is well on its way to becoming an icon of the living God, why not seal something small right now? Lending full acceptance to the not yet, what about a little relief already?


Perhaps somewhere, on a side of the world I’ll never see, an evergreen tree grows into its eternal form. Tonight, maybe someone writes a song that will beat within our chests 10,000 years from now. If the possibility exists, then let just one prayer rise: keep my friend here and ease her depression. Or help me swallow my tongue when I might shame my boy, and amplify every word that gives him praise.

 
Without an end in sight, consolation still comes like the tides.
 

Without an end in sight, consolation still comes like the tides. Sometimes lapping at my feet; sometimes crashing over me in waves. Lately, the words of my friend Jessica Kantrowitz do the trick. Nearly every night, she takes to Twitter and writes “You are not alone, and this will not last forever.”


In the beautiful new book “Blessings for the Long Night,” Jessica lends me further liturgy. In a poem describing the “unraveled” day I live too often, she reminds me that sometimes we have no other work “but to give in to the unraveling / and to the deep and tired calm / that only comes after a storm.”


Paired, that tweet and this poem comprise what I know for sure. The End eventually comes, the last words of a long book which gesture to all the stories that lie beyond. Till then, it’s safe to let today end, just like the restless painter who surrenders to slumber, knowing tomorrow has enough trouble and color of its own.


How long, O Lord? When will it end? Revelation fails me.


But the last word of a Jessica Kantrowitz poem or final overtone of an Andrew Peterson ballad arrive like down payments, ends as means until God’s promises come in full. Certain details change every night, but the dream remains fixed. Maybe some version of this vision lasts another 40 years till it blurs into forever—oceans of love and love again.




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