Watching With The End in View

Image Description: The title openings for two shows — Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Waltons.

Yes, this is a mashup photo of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Waltons. These two shows may seem like an odd couple, but for the very same reason, both have been on my mind this week.

With all my heart, I love Buffy and the universe Joss Whedon created through it. The show is masterful with the use of symbols and metaphors, and over seven seasons, the character development is immense. On Sunday, I watched the series finale again. I had not seen it in years. Then I circled back to the opening and watched the very first episode too.

I couldn’t help but view the opening scenes as a grand, albeit campy, prelude to where it was all headed. The end illumined the beginning, and I was watching with that end in view.

Later in the week, I was thinking about this once more when a beautiful memory came to mind. The memory is about David, a person beloved and deeply influential in my life. When he was living through a challenging cancer diagnosis, he suddenly became obsessed with the reruns of another show: The Waltons.

We all knew we were not allowed to call David during the 9am hour. That was The Waltons hour. If we did call David, he would scold us playfully. But he was also serious. He would not talk to anyone during that hour, nor would he do anything else. It was all about The Waltons.

This morning ritual went on every weekday for about a year. Then one particular day, he watched the series finale. The final episode reveals the future directions of the main characters. It skips ahead to reveal what their lives will become.

A few weeks later, I said something like, “I’ll give you a call tomorrow.” Then teasing him, I added, “But don’t worry. I won’t call during The Waltons.”

David told me he had finished the series. I assumed he would just start again at the beginning, but instead, he said, “Actually, I’m done with it. You know, I’ve been thinking about this. I needed to learn that everything would turn out alright, and that all those characters would be okay in the end. What I needed to learn most is that all of you will be alright too.”

David was speaking about his diagnosis, knowing that he would eventually leave us. He binge watched The Waltons, and with the end in view, he was comforted. He knew we would love and grieve deeply, but we would also live well.

David wasn’t merely talking about his illness alone, however. He was also talking about purpose. The word end has two meanings. It can mean finality, but it can also mean purpose or goal. Though it would indeed be painful, David needed to know our lives would continue after he was gone. But even more, he needed to know that our lives would continue in the purpose of the love we had shared with him.

I am so glad that we had that conversation. Years later, I know that he was right.

We still know that love.
We know love in our bones.

And more and more, I hope to live with that end in view.

Renee Roederer

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