Thursday, July 13, 2017

Death

La Mort du Fossoyeur - Carlos Schwabe
(Source)
My first real exposure to death was when I was a senior in high school. While getting ready for school one morning, our cat, Tommy, walked into my room and peed on the carpet. He was embarrassed about it, I was just a little miffed. Mom handled the mess, and off to school I went.

When I came home Tommy was gone.

Seems that he'd continued to act strangely, peeing everywhere and yowling. Tommy was very fastidious and he almost never yowled. Dad was called, he came home and took Tommy to the vet. Tommy didn't come home alive. Seems his kidneys were failing, rapidly.

"Any hope?", my dad wanted to know. The vet just shook his head.

Well, I was stunned. Not sad, not angry, just stunned. We'd had Tommy since I was a little boy, Tommy didn't seem that old. But looking back on it, Tommy was getting up there. But there was a big hole where that old furry guy used to be.

It wasn't long before there was a new kitten in the house. We missed Tommy, but we moved on. I remember that old black cat to this day, and yes, I still miss him.

But the next year it was off to college, a military school it was, at Christmas my paternal grandmother thought it would be neat if I wore my dress uniform for Christmas. So I did. She was very appreciative, couldn't say enough nice things about how good I looked in uniform, this mind you while Vietnam was still going on. Winding down, but American boys were still coming home in boxes.

But Gram was old school. Her three sons had all gone off to war. My two male cousins had also worn the uniform, one in Vietnam. To her, wearing the uniform was something you were supposed to do. Her favorite uncle had been killed in World War I, but to a Scot, duty was duty. At least it was in those days.

Before my freshman year was over, my grandmother was gone. It was sudden, damned sudden. She was gone before I could get home.

Stunned. Again. Life, because of death, was starting to feel pretty nasty.

My parents insisted that I go to the funeral home for visiting hours. I flat out refused. Mom was pretty upset, Dad was pretty angry. I mean, he'd just lost his mother and now here was his oldest son refusing to go visit her.

"Dad. That's not Grammie over there. I don't want to have a mental image of that lady for the rest of my life, dead, lying in a coffin. I want to remember her alive, smiling, baking cookies, yelling at Grampa. Talking to us in that soft Scottish accent of hers which had never quite gone away even after decades of being an American. I won't go, I'm sorry, but there it is."

While Dad was still a bit mad, he understood and didn't press the issue.

So Death had brushed past me twice, before I was 19 years old. But I didn't see Tommy dead, I didn't see my grandmother dead. I still see them in my mind's eye, alive. Forever the age at which I last saw them.

Since then Death has been around more often, far more often than I care for. But as I age, I know it's part of the cycle. We're born, we live, we die. It's inevitable.

What comes after this life, I can't know with any certainty. My buddy Joe Welsh insisted there was nothing, once the curtain came down that was it. Worm food as he put it, less than a year before he himself died. One way or another Joe has had the great question answered. I hope he was wrong. I really do.

I don't know why I'm in this blue funk today. Perhaps it's the news of another high school classmate passing. Cancer, just a few days before his 64th birthday. I played football with him, we weren't buddies, not by any stretch of the imagination. But he was a teammate, a really good athlete and a decent fellow. He's not the first of my class to die, heck there were a few who died shortly after high school. Accidents, disease, like I told an old friend of mine when the doctors thought that I had cancer (it wasn't), "Heck, Fred, we all have to die of something." I'm still here. Fred died back in 2008.

Death comes for us all. Seven sailors last month, fifteen Marines and one sailor just the other day, all dead long before they could reasonably expect to die. Even in the military you don't really think about it, death is something that happens to other people, in other units. Not to you and yours.

Until it does.

Damn.



All Things Must Pass
George Harrison

Sunrise doesn't last all morning
A cloudburst doesn't last all day
Seems my love is up and has left you with no warning
It's not always going to be this grey

All things must pass
All things must pass away

Sunset doesn't last all evening
A mind can blow those clouds away
After all this, my love is up and must be leaving
It's not always going to be this grey

All things must pass
All things must pass away
All things must pass
None of life's strings can last
So, I must be on my way
And face another day

Now the darkness only stays the night-time
In the morning it will fade away
Daylight is good at arriving at the right time
It's not always going to be this grey

All things must pass
All things must pass away
All things must pass
All things must pass away



20 comments:

  1. Been on my mind a bit lately as well. I am the same as you on the viewing thing...same reason.

    As to what happens after, Atheists may be right, but for sure they will never get to say "I told you so."

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  2. For much the same reasons as you with your grandmother, I declined viewing my father in his coffin.

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  3. I'm not fond of viewing, either.
    Fortunately, the choice has always been mine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Still not fond of it, but now I do it for the other folks involved. When I was 19 I wasn't, shall we say, as sensitive to others as I am now.

      I guess I must have matured somewhere along the way. Still don't like it...

      Delete
    2. I'm not sure I have ever matured.
      Death isn't a subject that is much discussed except when it happens.
      We maintain hope and try to remain positive as much as possible.
      Also trying hard to visit folks while they can still converse.
      They still leave, but it gives better memories.

      Delete
  4. I could have written a very similar post- pets, relatives, friends, and shipmates passing, some too soon, some expected. But yes, it is part of life that that despite being the natural order of things, doesn't make it easy.

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    Replies
    1. I was in a strange mood yesterday.

      Delete
    2. Perhaps that is what happens when we are somehow reminded of our own mortality, and at the same time realize just how much BS we put up with. Someone once said the greatest pain at the end is the un-spent love you take with you. Here is an interesting perspective---

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zR3Igc3Rhfg

      Delete
    3. I saw that video just today over at the daily timewaster.

      Reminders and perspective...

      Had 'em both in the last cuppla.

      Delete
  5. I don't know that saying ' thank you for the post ' is appropriate for this post. It is, however, a very, very good post.

    Thank you for being you.

    Paul L. Quandt

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    Replies
    1. Yesterday was odd, to say the least.

      Delete
  6. When my mom passed my dad and I got the call. When my dad passed I got the call, both were almost at 1AM each. There was no question of not going and seeing then since cremation was next. Glad we and I went each time, the bodies were there but they.. weren't.... the two quietest and loneliest times of my life.. Ya I can understand a mood like you were in yesterday. At our age we're closer to the end than the beginning. Not trying to be morbid but .....

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  7. When I think too much of death, I always try to remember what Ray Nitschke (or was it Ben Franklin?) said. "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." That always makes me feel better. Well, it has so far anyway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's days where it's more on my mind than others. Death of people you know usually doesn't help.

      Beer is good for what ales you. (Pun intended...)

      Delete
  8. When my Mom was dying, my sisters were told by Mom to not to tell me, until she had actually died, " Scott does not handle death well, you know ". Well, it's true, I tend to love family and friends perhaps too much. But you only get them for a limited time, and I have yet to know one who had the decency to wait until I was done with them.

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    Replies
    1. Too much? No way.

      Sure it hurts less if you don't, but then what's the point of loving at all?

      I think you're doing it right.

      Delete

Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)