On Death & Dying and Seasons Flying

On Death & Dying and Seasons Flying

Written Friday, May 14, 2010

Updated Tuesday, January 19, 2016

 

     Today is a typical overcast coastal morning. A wet fog obscures the pine-covered ridge of Annadel State Park usually visible from our front windows, which face west toward the Pacific Ocean.  We’ve had unseasonable weather most of the year—record rainfall, record cold.  Spring is dragging its feet, sloshing its way through overflowing rivers and lakes, unwilling to relinquish winter’s accouterments, hanging onto its misty dampness, reluctant to clear the way for sunshine and clarity.  Perhaps it is merely keeping time with this time of unrest and uncertainty.

     I reflect on recent events:  The death, last Halloween, of my oldest granddaughter, Leslie Lenore.  At 37, she relinquished her spot on this earth, leaving behind children of whom she was proud.  They were indelible evidence of her time spent on this plain.  Human remnants of a life hampered by struggle, pain and disappointment. 

     Death, especially that of a loved one, is a show-stopper, an inevitable event that makes each of us slow down and examine our lives and time spent thus far. The imposing finality of existence begs the question:  Am I where I’m supposed to be?  Should I have completed law school those thirty-plus years ago, instead of cow towing to the ridicule of my brother who, some say, turned out to be a soul without conscience?  Have I squandered my time?  Did I do enough for my children?  Should I have done more?  Can I do more?  How much of the precious few minutes, hours, days, months, years (?)  I have left should I devote to my children, my family, friends, vocation, avocation?  I cannot judge, nor do I have the right to condemn another.  As the Holy Bible cautions:  “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” 

But we are all judges.  Not one of us hesitates to condemn our fellow creatures when he or she slips into a mode of what we perceive as “unacceptable” behavior or survival mechanism, e.g.  dealing or using drugs, or animals or other people.  We’ve all slipped in some way—it’s human nature.

     I will soon relinquish my 70th year to the passing of time and my life.  As she lie dying from the ravages of the cancer treatment (not the cancer itself said the hospice nurse), my baby sister, Loretta, said a few things worth capturing for posterity:

     “That was sure a fast 53 years!”

     “I only wish I’da had more children!” (She had six--three sons and three daughters.)

     “I did not know that dying could be so hard. It’s like being in labor, without delivering …”

     “I’m going on a journey and I don’t need no suitcase!”

     And, after reaching the point where she needed assistance to go to the bathroom: “This is not me…I’m outta here!” Whereupon, she ripped the oxygen catheter from her nose and died.

      In retrospect, dreamlike, all time seems to have rushed by, but I didn’t notice the rush, the whisking by of the moments as I consumed them with things petty.  I used to scoff when the elders said “time is precious, use it wisely!”  Youth scorns such advice.  But old age demands it.