Death Becomes You
Thought for the day:
An old middle school friend’s father died yesterday morning.
So he called.
We’d been talking about the passing of his parent for a few weeks now…a drawn out disease where death has grown comfortable in the waiting room is no slow cruise. It is interminable waiting. It is placing your life on hold while the greater forces of life and death intervene in your routine.
This is death up close and centered. He’s in the waiting room sifting through the magazines. Death never entered the room. He’s always been there. Patient with our ignorance of his presence. He doesn’t care if we ignore or write poems to him. He does what he does, which is to attend and to await to present the final gift, the present life brings each one of us,
Wrapped in delicate personal memories; tied with a silver bow of faint regret.
I listen to my friend.
I listen to the scene he recounts in my head of an over eager hospice nurse, of a fatal dose of morphine.
He doesn’t want to sue, he wants me to write something,
to tell people what happened to his father.
Perhaps there is a story there to be heard but there’s the story that my friend is ignoring. The passing, the death of his beloved father, his parent, the man who held and protected him when he was helpless. Who first guided his clumsy thinking, his testing of the world. The source of advice, the font of all wisdom:
Pater meus a patre. Vos estis qui de caelo cadit, sicut pluviam et omnem animam in maius et luminare minus idem. Qui dedit nobis sitim extinguere pluvia rationem in radicibus excoquendi in sole.
Those of us who have lost a parent, both parents feel the shadow of our mortality move closer to us. It is not a selfish observation but a crucial one.
A glimpse into the truth of our own existence: short, meagre and thin.
The death of a loved one is tragedy but a necessary one. It is necessary to be reminded of the life we are living and the world that we are actually in. To wake up from the amnesia of wishes we have been distracting ourselves with, is to literally smell-the-coffee.
It’s bitter, it’s scalding and it’s blunt metal real.
There is no solace for loss, just the empty space left behind by the one who is no longer there. Which is where you are, holding that space in your mind for them as someday, your loved ones will hold a similar space for you.
Maybe that’s where heaven is: the space your loved ones hold for you in their minds long after your body has left with death, the waiting room.