“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I sit at my father’s bedroom window watching showers of fluffy cottonwood seeds. Every May, they blanket the Minnesota ground like late spring snow.

Life pours down. Inside, my father is dying in bed, kidneys ravaged by cancer. Together, we wait.

When he finally passes, I leave the house. I retreat to glaciers, a lighthouse at the end of the earth, monasteries perched on mountains. Death follows unseen.

His Hawaiian shirt hangs in my closet, never to be washed again. Time and again I hold it to my face, breathing in his smell, until that too fades.

Much later, I hear the Buddha said: a human life lasts but one breath.

Before, I never saw how the slender birch trees on the hill outside his house gently sway in the breeze. The wind comes and goes, unhurried.

Every breath I take comes in and out, traversing life and death. In every moment, love and loss are inseparable.

I see, and I transform.

— Nick Rosenbaum