Comes a Time
Comes a time, comes a time for dying when the shadow walks away. Up until it dawned on me in an evening of sunsets, it wasn’t anything I paid much attention to. Lacking an extended family to speak of, in half a century anyone who passed left me out of the equation. Everyone in my life came and went like two trains going in the opposite direction, a blur of faces in the windows.
I remember my first coffin. In grade 6 the nuns marched us out of class and across the street to Dwyer Funeral Home to say a meek little benediction over the body of someone they told us was important. To this day I cannot lie on my back with my hands folded over my chest. As an adult I avoided funerals as an end of life ceremony and preferred to remember the good things about the person I had known, that way they never really died on me.
My mother at 87 was the first personal close encounter with the reality that there really was the possibility I would end up in the proverbial dustbin. No open coffin though, cremation without ceremony was her option—she was heading straight for heaven. That was a lifetime ago. Since then aging has played games with the face in the mirror. And although I’m not particularly thrilled about having to end the journey I’m on, in the end the choice will be a foregone conclusion.
I do know that I have come full circle. In youth when everyday was sunrise and life engrossed all my senses, dying was a destiny I gave no thought to, and now having discarded time as irrelevant, reveling in the life that surrounds me, relegates death to just a likely possibility when the music stops playing. I can now reflect on the knowledge that dying is a part of living. Never so clear to me now that I live in a small Mexican village where it is an accepted part of daily life. For the first time I have been able to visit my neighbors coffin and remember him as he was and always will be in the hearts of those who passed his way. The familia celebración of el Abuelo brought tears to my eyes, not only for the sadness of those left behind, but for all the celebrations I missed thinking death was not something I cared to pay mind to.
The music I love no longer plays at the top of the charts, and the melodies that rattle in my morning mind are vinyl stages of life that began and ended like mile markers on the interstate. No matter how long it takes there is an ending to everything. Is it possible that what I was after, after all, was an expression of self, and that’s all I will leave behind? In the finale there could wellness be, the inauguration of the end of what I started out to do in the very beginning. I still cannot lie back with my hands folded over my chest, not for fear of dying, but because I want to reach out and hold on to everything.
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