Tag Archives: death

“This isn’t how I go!”

Have you seen the movie Big Fish?  Brilliant flick.  A must-see, if ever there was one.

Anywho, inspired by this movie, I love the idea of “knowing” when you are going to die, although I DO NOT actually want to KNOW that information.

Allow me to elaborate.

I am one of those people who is mindful of the impending event of death to an excruciating degree.  Whenever I hear that wise advice, “Don’t forget, we are all mortal, enjoy every day as if it were your last… blah blah blah” I think to myself, “Welcome to my life.”

So on the positive side, death is not going to catch me without having appreciated every second of every day.

On the negative side, I think there is a damn good reason that most people live blissfully unappreciative lives, and that is because it makes you INSANE to think about death all the time.

Let’s put it this way: the joy I felt surrounding the birth of each of my children was painfully tempered by the realization that…

I was going to be afraid every day not only of my own death but of my children’s death, and…

In giving them birth I was simultaneously giving them their eventual death, as well as all the suffering they might experience in between those two events.

So I was able to appreciate the father character in Big Fish, after he’d seen his own death in the witch’s eye, as he went through his adventures, starting to feel afraid and then remembering, “Wait!  This isn’t how I go!”

I have thusly decided that I “know” I am going to die in my sleep when I’m 88.  (Anyone who’s suffered through enough of my blog knows that I am partial to the number 8.)

Now, whether this is what really happens or not, who cares.  The point is, I won’t face every single day-to-day perilous situation, like, say, driving down the road in the car, with so much fear.  I can look the oncoming semis confidently in the headlights and say to myself, “Don’t panic!  This isn’t how I go!”  I am absolutely exhausted of being afraid all the time.

(There’s no chance that I will actually put myself in a dangerous situation with a false sense of immortality… you can’t erase 41 years of paranoia THAT easily.)

But if I could only convince myself to play along, to believe against all reason that everything is okay… I might at least add a couple of years on to my life with lower stress levels.  It’s worth a shot, anyway.

Dreaming of a Snake

It was so odd. We were living in a different house — we’d just moved in.

The bedroom must have been partially open air. All I can see is the bed and the wall behind it. I don’t think there was a ceiling.

Near the top of the wall was a clump of brambles like you see when someone is cutting down foliage but can’t reach that high to get the rest (says the shorty, who understands these things.)

Then I noticed that within the brambles was part of a tan-colored snake with darker brown mottled markings. It had been cut off a few inches below the head, mouth wide open showing fangs, headed straight up the wall.

Then I see just above the snake, a tiny skinny green frog was sitting on a stem of the bramble, and the frog was dead still. Literally. Somehow it just automatically died when the bramble and the snake were cut.

I was climbing up to observe the snake more closely. I could see a bit into its open mouth, where there was an identical tiny skinny green frog suspended lifeless in a jump for its life out of the snake’s mouth.

Climbing higher, I could see down into the snake’s throat. There was a fat brown toad wedged in there, his head facing up.

Throughout the dream I’m trying to put all the pieces together as I find them, adapting and evolving the story as it unfolds in retrospect.

Snake killed as it tries to escape bedroom of previous owner.

Snake wasn’t escaping but was trying to get frog on stem when it was killed.

Snake had already almost captured another frog when it was killed, frog on stem was just coincidence. Or dessert.

Both frogs were coincidence, as snake was either digesting or choking to death on toad, who might have been trying to eat jumping frog? Who was trying to make it to his date with sitting frog?

I never did come to any solid conclusion, and so these vivid puzzle pieces hang tantalizingly in my inner vision, teasing me, assuring me that there is something there, if only I were clever enough to understand.


Grandpa’s Fruit Tree

My teenagers hate it when I try to share a story from my past. Yesterday I was trying to tell my 19 year old about how as a kid I had records with story books so I could listen to Heidi and Mary Poppins and such. She could barely be bothered to look at me and as soon as I paused she left the room.

I was immediately reminded of my Grandma’s face that day when I was maybe thirteen years old and she tried to get me to try a peach ( I think it was a peach – it’s extra-damning that I can’t even remember that detail) from a tree that my deceased Grandpa had planted years before. As a kid I despised almost every kind of fruit, and for her to be practically begging me to take one bite of some stupid gross fruit just seemed mean. Hooray, the man I barely remember grew some nasty stuff I hate, why are you torturing me with it?

I can still see the desperation turning to pain in her eyes as she realized I wasn’t going to even pretend to nibble the peach.

Now I know how long it takes to cultivate fruit trees. Now I know how profound it is that a person can reach across time and space with the literal or figurative fruits of their labor, extending their love even beyond the grave by the thoughtful and loving things they did with their lives. She was trying to teach me this, wanting me to participate in this miracle, wanting to see that their years of hard work for posterity was truly going to nourish the generations to come.

Not that this compares with my stupid stories about listening to 45’s. I just remember my own disgust when I see it mirrored in my child’s face, in her refusal to even humor me for a couple minutes. In her self-centered ignorance about what it means for the past and the future to be connected in a meaningful embrace.

That I can only completely understand what her eyes were saying from this distance, when the peach and she and my Grandpa are all long gone, makes me feel like the biggest fool ever.

Tattoos and Quitting the Game

I am having a recurrent thought: “Just tattoo your face and get it over with.”

I don’t have any plans to carry it out, and it’s not been something I’ve ever truly wanted, although there are a few tattoos I’d like to get in other places.

Hypothetically, if I were to do such a thing, it would consist of tribal spirals along the edge(s) of my face. Nothing seriously freaky, but still, an out-of-the-ordinary body decoration, no matter how subdued the art.

I think this thought has been occurring repeatedly because it represents a permanent signing off of the Game. Not the Game of Life, a gauntlet of physical and mental tests from birth through growth, acquiring skills, illness, endurance, etc., ultimately ending in death, which I find to be a fulfilling challenge. A facial tattoo would have almost no effect on this Game.

I am also not speaking of the Game of Family, Friends and Community, which involves the trials and joys resulting from establishing and maintaining intimate connections, which give purpose and depth to existence. I think a tattoo on the face would present some small but certainly surmountable issues in these Games, if played with truly loving, wise individuals. It would definitely weed out the shallow and the severely judgmental, and how could that be bad?

I’m talking about the Game of Society, the artificially dangerous labyrinth of red tape, licenses, diplomas, renown, accolades, credit scores, retirement packages and insurance policies. I’m fairly certain that a tattoo on the face would be quite near a guarantee that a person would lose this Game. I think an intentional walk off that cliff would be a lot of the point.

I currently have a tattoo on my wrist which I can hide with very long sleeves. And I do, for job interviews and the like. Hide who I am.

When it’s visible, there are times when people will be talking to me casually, say in the grocery store, and they will have the normal, blank, polite smile, then they glance over and see my tattoo and their face kind of lights up with a fresh attention. They look back up at my face and they aren’t sure anymore. They were certain of something a second ago, and then everything shifted. I’m not sure what it would be like to just start from that point.

The message with regards to “reputation” would be: I quit. I refuse to submit to random regulations in order to scramble for some of the crumbs you allow to fall from your ivory tower. I hate the Game and I’m not playing, so don’t even try to make me. There are obviously other things, outside of your cruel and soulless box, that mean much more to me.

The message about identity would be: You don’t know who I am or what I’m capable of. If I have this much disregard for the most basic rules of how to participate in polite society then all bets are off. Get to know me or walk away. Pay attention to what I say and what I do or leave now and forever wonder. I’m not an anonymous pawn. I’m not a timid cog.

Granted, there is a lot of anger in those messages. There is a lot of responsibility in moving beyond that point of no return. Right now the idea is serving as simply a way to vent some of my frustration, and a mental exercise in examining possibilities. One thing for sure, it would definitely be a gamechanger.

Sprouts in the Compost

My first compost pile in a few years, not going fancy with any kind of contraption yet. Maybe ever. I’ve had success with just-laying-it-all-out-style, being able to turn things in easily. Why mess with easy?

But I’ve added so many seedy bits that now I’ve got sprouts growing out of my compost. Birth and death in one mound of dirt. Food from food. Do not pass go, do not collect $200 (that would be the grocer who isn’t collecting…)

On the one hand, the beautiful cycle of life unfolding effortlessly is such a sweet surprise – uplifting, hopeful, fulfilling.

On the other hand, hang on! I need to be able to be rough with this mess, chop and dig and turn, cultivate decay. How am I supposed to ruthlessly recycle when I’ve got lovely delicate greenness volunteering out of the soil, offering a future bounty in selfless sacrifice?

Of course, I have a hard time thinning the things I’ve planted on purpose, too. Seems so cruel. Yeah, y’all are gonna have to die because your buddies here need some elbow room.

Gardening is a solemn affair at times, I tell you! A gardener is often inspired to consider philosophically that power of life and death being wielded, even with strawberry juice running down the chin…

Who Comes to Us in our Dreams?

When we pass the night in our sleeping fantasies, do we really get to see people who have passed on?  I have to say yes.  To awake with the solid certainty that I have been in the presence of a loved one is a feeling I cannot question.  If somehow it is just an illusion, then I will gladly remain behind that curtain.

Many years ago I lost a partner to a drug overdose.  We’d been together for a few intense, sometimes violent months. Beneath the storm of our external relationship there was a deep, true connection that could not be severed.

His goals in life were to be the next Great American Poet and to make sure he never ran out of beer.  My goals were to write the Great American Novel and to get him to quit drinking.  Something we had in common was that we wanted to have a child together.

On September 29th, 1995, I learned that he had died the previous evening of a heroin overdose.  That night, after finally passing out from the exhaustion of crying my soul out, I dreamed that we were in each other’s presence again.  I told him we needed to make love again, to try to make our baby.  He just smiled a really big, peaceful, joyful, knowing smile, an expression that clearly said, “Don’t worry about it,”  and hugged me.  As we embraced there was no boundary between us, where his arms ended and mine began.

On October 13th I discovered that I was pregnant.

In the last week I had a dream about my Grandma who died in December of 2009.  In the dream she was laying in a bed, curled up facing away from me.  Somehow I knew that when she turned around, she might have any kind of face, even the most nightmarish rotting flesh from a horror movie (and I avoid that genre for just that reason).  But I knew that it was my Grandma, no matter what she ended up looking like, so I curled up behind her, just to be near her.  As she turned around we both sat up to face each other —  and she was very young, early 20s, the age I imagine she would choose to be if she were given the option.  She was glowing with joy.  She somehow morphed into a young man, or he came on the scene and the focus shifted away from her, but however it happened, I knew in that moment I would be granted a wish.  I immediately begged with tearful sobs to be healed of my poisonous anger, the explosive frustration that attacks me and the people I love all too frequently.  (As you may know, anger is something I’ve struggled with for a long time, such as in this earlier post.)

Well, since then I’ve had the same frequency of outbursts as usual, but yesterday at the thrift store I found a book called “Anger” by Thich Nhat Hahn.  It seemed to be a little gift from the universe, a little push in the right direction (hopefully.)

I don’t know where the certainty is that I’ve really seen the deceased person.  As I say, it may be wishful thinking, it may be a foolish desire to hang on to something I’ve lost, but no matter what, I , who am pretty open to critical analysis and alternate explanations, refuse to doubt.

The Last Breath

When I die, I will let go of a breath I have been holding for a very long time.

The base of my neck will unknot, releasing my fear of error, criticism, and failure.  

My shoulders will relax, letting go of the fear for my children, for their safety, health, and happiness. 

My hands will unclench as I stop clinging to my possessions, those objects of use, nostalgia or monetary value that absorbed my attention, whose loss I daily feared. 

The small of my back will lengthen, unfurl, finally free of the crippling anxiety of rejection.

My brow will smooth out as the unbearable tension of a world plagued with every kind of crisis no longer belongs to me. 

My jaw will loosen, dropping to let fly all the angry, sad words I held on to year after year, the stream of letters soaring harmlessly up to the stars for their amusement, to be remixed as a satire of Life on Earth.

My lips will unpurse, widen into a smile of relief as the last puff of air escapes.

For now, I keep inhaling hope and desire — the inspiration to continue to live fully with every breath I take.