Tag Archives: death

Blanks

We begin with nothing but blank pages.  Yet, even while in the womb, we start to write our story.  The prologue to the book of our life is created as we form in the darkness.  And then, violently, we are born.  Taking our first breath, we cry out.  At that moment, we put pen to page and record the first line of our first chapter.

We aren’t aware we’ve begun to write our saga.  We don’t even realize we are on a journey.  This revelation doesn’t occur until much later.  But with our first cry, we wildly slash, leaving a bold, daring line across the pristine sheet of paper before us.  We are.  We make our initial mark.  And so, we begin to fill the pages of our book.

Our first poopy diaper.  The first time we roll over.  Our first smile.  The day we discover our own arm.  The first time we crawl.  Take a step.  Run.  Outgrow that poopy diaper.  Say our first word.  Our first day of school.

Chapters are written and they can’t be revised.  Or replayed.  Nor can they be undone.   Time writes with indelible ink.

In a weird twist, we forget our story even as we are writing it.  Who recalls the exact moment they first tottered across the living room floor without falling?  Who can remember saying their first word?  And who recollects the first time we excitedly ripped our hand out of that of our parents, running onward without them?   We achieve, but continually move forward.  One step follows another until we no longer recall from where we have come.  Blank sheet after blank sheet, filled, written, then forgotten.  We turn the page and keep writing…whether we want to or not.  What we do each second creates a line or paragraph within our book.  But most of those minutes are lost almost as they happen.  Only the major milestones are remembered.  And often, they are only recalled with difficulty.

We catch and release.  Moment after moment, lived and lost.

We fill in the blanks as we carelessly fill our empty pages.  I was born in _______ city.  I grew up in a house on _______ street.  I got my driver’s license ___ days after I turned 16.  I graduated with a ____ GPA in ____ year.  My first real job was at ______.  My first car was a _____.  I was ____ years old when __________ kissed me for the very first time.  My first love was ___________.  I got married when I was _____ years old on _______ date.

We write chapters with increasing speed.  The memories are lost even as we live and create them.

We fill in the blanks.  We fill up the blank spaces.  But we also blank out large chunks of our life.  We blank out the pain; the painful memories.  We erase from our minds large portions of what we have written.  We run from our own story.  Or deny we have one.

We create a chronicle of our life, chapter after chapter, year upon year.  We don’t foresee the end.  We never know when time has decided to leave us behind.  We don’t realize we are writing the final word upon that last page; not until the pen slips from our hand.  We grasp for it, but in vain.  It tumbles and falls silently to the floor, empty, used up.

We don’t know we are taking our last breath until suddenly, we fail to take another.

That last page?  I can’t tell you what it’s like.  I’m not there yet.  And no one lives to share their experience.  Even if they did live to tell, it’s very different for each one of us.  We reach that page at assorted ages, in dissimilar conditions, at various stages of life, and in a variety of ways (car wreck, cancer, heart attack…it’s a long list).  We are in differing states of mind, at a distinct place emotionally, physically and spiritually.  No two of us are alike and our final moments are as varied as snowflakes.

The last page, the final breath, the last word we write is very private event.  For this is a journey we make alone.

Everything is finite.  We all have an expiration date.  We don’t acknowledge or comprehend this when we’re young.  We don’t truly grasp it until we gasp in our final lungful of air and exhale for the last time.  Then we know with absolute certainty.

Suddenly, there are no more blanks.  Nothing exists beyond that moment.  Every experience we will ever have has come and gone.  Lived and ended.  Every moment allotted to us has been spent.  Every blank has been filled. There will be no more firsts.  No more memories to record.  Nothing for us to struggle to remember as it slips away.  No memories whatsoever.  It’s as if we have been erased.  As if our book was written in disappearing ink.

When we fill the one remaining blank – the date and time of our death – our story, good, glorious, or heartbreaking, is complete.  Someone else will add “The End” to our closing page when they say goodbye for the final time, then turn and walk on without us.

 

Ronnie P Has Left the Building

I have known him for a very long time.  He was an old friend.  One from way back.  One who never failed to have my back.  Who was always there.  Always cared.  One of the rare ones who “knew me when,” knew me now and who was still a presence in my life.

Too young to die.

I got the news yesterday morning.  At 1:30 a.m. on July 4th, Ronnie had a heart attack and died.  No warning.  Just like that.  They “worked on him” for 45 minutes, but couldn’t revive him.  Ronnie had left the building.  His final exit.  Curtain closed.  The story of his life finished.  There will be no encore.

Ronnie was one of the very few people I knew in high school who accepted me.  I was allowed to be part of his gang of mismatched castaways.  A little group of rejects who never quite fit in anywhere else.  The thing was, Ronnie was not really one of us.  He was a bit of a jock.  A football player who was friends with the popular kids, but who, for whatever reasons, hung out with us outcasts.  He was the core around which we all revolved and having brought us together, he held us close.  He was our touchstone.    We were friends with Ronnie and then became friends with each other.

After high school, we briefly lost touch.  I moved to a big city several hours away.  Last I heard, he had joined the military and I had no idea where he was stationed.  I thought of him often and wondered where he was, but in those days, finding someone was hard. There was no Facebook.  No internet. At times, I wondered if I would ever see him again.

About 5 years after we graduated, I pulled into the Sears parking lot one night.  There was a small key-making kiosk on the lot and as I walked by, I saw his face grinning at me.  Big goofy smile.  He had moved to the same city I now called home to attend college after he was discharged from the military and he was working in that kiosk while going to school.  Fate, it seemed, brought us back together.

There were times we again lost touch over the years, but he always tracked me down.  He was the one who put in the effort to find me and to maintain the bond.  I was that important to him.

It wasn’t that I didn’t care.  Or that he wasn’t also important to me.  But I was never good with connections.  I struggled with relationships.  Forever an outcast; inferior.  Ronnie didn’t care.  He went the extra mile, as if he understood it was something I couldn’t do.

And now, he’s gone.  The connection broken.  And even if I try, I can’t track him down where he has gone.

I am struggling to imagine a world with out Ronnie in it.  Without his big, tender heart.  A heart that loved strays…both people and animals.  A heart that opened up and swallowed you whole.  That loved you even when you couldn’t love our accept yourself.  Ronnie saw the good.  He never gave up on you when you were at your worst.  He was there.  Always.  And now, he isn’t.  I simply can’t comprehend it.

Ronnie P has left the building.  He loved deeply and cared even more.  He pulled people to him.  Somehow, now that I know he is gone, now that his light has been turned off, the darkness feels even more menacing and overwhelming.  He was a force.  A presence.  Without him, the world seems much more empty.

Oh, my friend…you left too soon.  You were too young.  And I don’t know how we’re going to make it without you.

 

Death on the Breeze

winter-comesFall is coming.  Death is in the air.  You can feel it when the wind howls through the tree branches.  Smell it on the breeze.  Mold.  The scent of decay.  Leaves have already started to drop from some of the trees, even though a few late blooming flowers still provide nectar for the hard-working bees.  Birds congregate.  Talking in excited squawks and squeals about their upcoming journey south.   It rains more frequently, as if the sky is crying tears while mourning what is lost and grieving what lies ahead.  The earth seems to sigh in sadness and with great regret.

It’s cool enough most nights to need a sweater.  And the high temperatures of the day do not rise anymore into an unpleasant range.  Sweat is a thing of the past.

The days are already significantly shorter.  Darkness consumes the light earlier with every revolution of the sun.  And gives it back later.  Optimism fades in the waning sunlight.  Suddenly, light is in short supply and we are all the worse for it.

Headlights (those that aren’t automatically turned on and off for us) are again in use each morning.  Extinguished later, at times when they would have been unneeded but days before.  Indoor fixtures are required earlier each evening. They provide our only illumination during darkening times.  In this season, we never have enough light by which to see.  No matter how many lamps we switch on or bulbs we install, the night presses in from all sides.  Presses heavily and persistently.

When one is in the spring or summer of their life, while there is a dislike for the infringing darkness, there is also knowledge that the season can’t fully penetrate the soul.   The cold may be hard to bear, but when one is young, when there is so much ahead and so little behind, the temporary inconvenience of fall and winter are not an unbearably heavy burden.  Life will go on.  The flowers will bloom again.  Trees will bud and leaves will unfurl once more.  There will come a point when the light again overcomes the darkness and the sun will warm our face and bones.

But when this season of impending darkness is also the season of our life, the season where we currently reside, it is not so easy to forgive or endure.  Hope does not flow within us like a mighty river at this frightening stage.  It’s more like a fragile spring that can easily run dry if not continually nurtured and diligently protected.  The lack of light echoes our lack of time.  It is a constant reminder our own brief moment is quickly fading.  Running out.  At some point, we will slip into the deep darkness of an unending winter, never to awake.

The world will continue; spring, summer, fall, winter.  Season after season.  But at some point, our eyes will not see it.  Our bones will not feel the warmth of life returning.  The sun will no longer bring a smile to our face or hope to our heart.  We will become a part of the night.  And leave this place behind.

Wherever and whatever lies ahead exists in some other dimension beyond our earthly comprehension or imagination.

My prayer is this new reality will not be one in which we suffer and carry agony within us that can’t be shed or resolved.  My prayer is that it will be a place of sunshine and unending summer.  A place without seasons.  Where darkness has been banished, our tears have already been cried, our broken hearts have miraculously been mended, our wrinkled bodies have been astonishingly restored, made strong and perfect.  Oh, how I pray it will be a gentle place.  A place where all my beloved dogs, those who have slipped away before me and the two who sleep on my lap now, will be waiting for me with wiggles that can’t be contained as they jump for joy at the sight of me.

I have no hope left for this world.  I’m perched on the edge of a long, trying winter and winter holds little good, nor brings many joyful moments.  What I worked for in this place where I’ve existed for more years than I can grasp, will never be realized.  I fought the darkness, but the darkness won.

My only hope now is that death will never come to call on a breeze in that new dimension.  I hope I will never smell its smell again.  I pray eternity will be far sweeter, kinder and gentler than this world has ever been.  And that once the leap is made from time to timelessness, all the burdens, brokenness, hopelessness, hurt and darkness will finally be left far behind.  Forever past.  That the sun will always burn in a beautiful blue sky.  That the breezes will always be gentle and filled with light and life.  That the flowers will never go dormant.  And that the dark of night, anguish and death will be a vague, fading memory.  One that tickles my mind, but that I can’t quite recall.  No matter how hard I try.

 

If I Should Die

“If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

I had a really bad night a few nights ago.  A really bad night.

It started off with me just feeling extremely tired.  Later, I woke up with a bad acid reflux attack.  Thought that was the worst of it, but then I started to crash.  At least, I think I was crashing.  It’s a bit of a blur.

I realized too late that I was crashing.  Or was maybe crashing.  Probably crashing.  Went for the salt and potassium.  Knocked all the spices off the rack and broke the nutmeg bottle…it was glass; can you believe it?  Shards went everywhere.  I couldn’t think well enough to deal with it then, other than to get the pieces off the floor so my girls, my sweet Miniature Schnauzer girls, didn’t cut their little paws.

I drank a gallon of water with a sports additive included and held mouthfuls of salt on my tongue.  Used the last of my electrolyte strips.  I hadn’t been this bad off in a long time.

I don’t know why I crashed like this.  If I was crashing.

Whatever was going on, I was sick.  Extremely sick.

“…I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

I have been careful.  I haven’t thrown up as much.  I have gained weight and I’m very upset about how much I have gained.  Very upset.  About how much I’ve gained.  Gone up a size or two.  I’ve kept food and I’m upset about that.  Very upset.  Still purging, but not as much.  Not as radically.  But here I was…crashing.  As I used to crash when I was at my worst.  When I was throwing up 5 or more times a day.  Getting rid of everything I ate.  Everything.  I was in a scary place.   Back then.  Maybe not surviving.

Maybe.  Not.  Surviving.

And somehow I was in that place again.

The only reason it mattered, the only reason I wanted to live was my dogs.  My Schnauzers.  My babies.  They need me.  I love them.  I want to be there for them.

I prayed that God would let me live so I could be there for them.  They are the best dogs I’ve ever had.  I want to take care of them.  I want to protect them.  I want to be a good mommy for them.

They are all that matters to me here on earth.  They dance and go crazy when I come home.  Kiss my face.  Wiggle little stubs and run in circles.  Affectionately nip my arm.  Make me feel like I matter.  They care if I come home.  Without them, it wouldn’t matter if I came or went.   Without them, I am totally alone.  Otherwise, my life is not worth living.  Otherwise, I would have let the darkness take me.

But this night, my heart was beating too fast.  Hard.  I was freezing and then I was clammy, burning up, sweating, unable to breathe.  I couldn’t stand up.  I was too weak.  I thought I was going to die.  I prayed and asked God to help me.  Because my dogs are worth living for.  They depend on me.  They need me.

I need them.  I need their love.

They give me a reason to live.  They are my only reason to live.

If I should die before I wake…

Who will take care of my babies?

I need them.  They need me.

Because of them, I must not die before I wake.   Not yet.  Not now.

 

 

Watching the Clock

We don’t start watching the clock until we are about…four.

That’s when we figure out it takes a long, long time for Christmas to arrive.  For our next birthday.  By the time we’re six, we realize school lasts forever and summer comes and goes at lightening speed.  Recess is fleeting.  Daylight hours never last long enough.  The alarm clock goes off too early each morning.  Yet we watch the clock.  Waiting.  Always waiting.  For some future event.  For some point in time yet to come.

We can’t wait for the time when we can date.  Drive a car.  For the time we graduate from high school.  Until we can vote.  Drink…legally.

We are a strange race.  We spend our days watching the clock while the moments we should treasure, the life we should cherish and fully experience, those precious moments tick away, always out of reach.  The seconds slip through our fingers.  And as a result, we never truly live.  We’re always waiting.  For something.  We wait and we forget to live.

Oddly, the things we wait for go by so quickly, we can’t seem to grasp or appreciate them.  They are gone before we even realize they have arrived.  Yet, the things we can’t wait to end, that drag on and on and on forever, those things seem to last beyond eternity.  Beyond our ability to endure.

Sadly, the things we look forward to, those things, we can’t slow them down long enough to appreciate them.  We can’t slow them down enough to wrap our arms around them.  The things we want to last forever are gone before we can even focus on them.

It’s like eating oysters on the half shell.  We swallow whole the things we should savor and as a result, never really taste the precious minutes of our existence.

One day, I was a young girl of 15. The next, there was an old woman looking back at me in the mirror, face lined with wrinkles, limbs tired and mind confused.  That old woman barely resembled me…the me that will forever possess my heart.  For you see, the 15 year-old still lives inside of my sagging body.  Life has happened, one tick of the clock at a time.  The moments are gone forever.  The memories are fading, just as my eyesight fades.  Fear causes me to look away.  To deny. To forget the reflection I saw in the mirror…the reflection that surely can’t be mine.

There comes a point where we are waiting for the inevitable.  That moment we must all experience, but that most of us dread. The moment we slip beyond time. When the breath of life leaves our body.  We want to stop the clock, but we can’t.  The ticking is deafening.

When we are young, we can’t even fathom that this moment will arrive.  And then, we age, time begins to slip away and we can’t fathom the moment not arriving.   We know.  It is only a matter of time.  We watch the clock. We can’t help ourselves.  And then, suddenly, the clock tells us that time is running out.

Still, we can’t stop watching.