Death is not 7 feet tall, dressed in a large black robe and armed with a scythe. Death is a small waif of a girl, translucent and invisible. She comes up behind you and reaches inside to touch what she wills. Caressing the liver of an alcoholic she whispers inaudibly in his ear, “Your time is coming”, and marks him. Maybe we are marked for death because of our actions, like alcoholism or other drugs. Perhaps it is through inaction like obesity or other carelessness.
My father smoked almost his entire life. Yet when he was near the end of his life the doctors could find nothing seriously wrong with his lungs. 50+ years of pipes and Benson & Hedges barely marked him. But it was a doctor posing as our translucent waif who nicked his colon during a simple surgery that caused his sepsis and eventual death. Or maybe our waif was working through the doctor and spoke into his ear, “Cut here”.
We humans can compartmentalize death and give it different weights. We are able to balance the death of a soldier doing his duty against a gang banger in a city. We are able to dismiss a despicable act against an act of valor. We feel the pain of loved ones and friends with their losses.
I have two sisters. My younger sister just lost her father-in-law to cancer. Our family grieves with her. Her loss is our loss. My older sister is based overseas with the military. Her job is education. She is on army or navy bases and teaches in their elementary schools. I cannot imagine the pain when a 1st grader loses a mom or dad to war and my sister has to deal with the fallout. The other students and teachers all feel the loss as well.
My own father-in-law is also near the end. We don’t know how long. Months maybe. A year at most. He has lived a long, energetic life. All the family and close friends all visit him often. Sometimes too often, as he gets cranky when tired. And he gets tired more often. Cancer and death are weighing him down. A dark pall is encroaching into the room where he rests now. I hope it is quick and painless, the end. I hope he is remembered by all for all the good he did, for all those years. His legacy is abundant.
Our own legacy, yours and mine, are still to be determined. I’m working everyday to try to leave a lasting impression and hopefully a positive one. Only time will tell. I’m trying to keep the waif at arms length for as long as possible.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
― Hunter S. Thompson