The Grim Reaper stalks, relentlessly, as he pursues his unwilling victim down the endless corridors of time, allowing respite from the agony of the inevitable as only he, in his sometimes questionable wisdom, may determine. The prey, in his cunning, unwisely considers evasion within reach, but as he grasps at the flimsy whisp of that possibility, the future rewards of his dreams vanish, as the mist of dawn must give way to the unyielding pressure of the day to come.
One more day! is asked of him. If he could find one and give it generously, there is no guarantee it would be a good one. Is he to be blamed? Should he greedily be begged for another?
The Grim Reaper knows, he has seen, he will see. And he urges that the prophecy be understood. The Grim Reaper must walk on, alone, forever.
Death, as an imagined personified force, was wordily bandied about between my father and myself after his early retirement in his mid-50s. He took the side of a “Young Man”, but “30 years later”, so most likely himself. And I rebutted, taking the side of the poor “Sickle Bearer”, doomed to an eternity of siccing death on humans, in an expected manner or otherwise.
Death has been on my mind a lot lately. My friends are dying. A female friend last month, then a male friend this month, both in their 60s. And I know. I lost a husband in his 40s – he was most assuredly a friend that died – but somehow that was different. His death was a weird and sudden cataclysmic slice of the sickle. I was pretty sure then that it would be a long time before anyone else in my friend group died.
I turn 65 this month. The Grim Reaper stalks, ever closer, with each passing day. I can run madly from him, but he’ll always be there, lurking.
Many experts posit that the fear of death underlies every human fear. We conquer that one? True peace of mind?
While his ominous presence is condoned with reluctance, his unquestionable wisdom will, in the end, have to be accepted and understood, if ever eternal peace is to be the reward of the Sickle Bearer and his companion.
Serendipitously, a death doula has been making the rounds on my podcasts. I heard her first on a TED Talk, then on my Ten Percent Happier podcast. Alua Arthur.
What is a death doula? The opposite of a birth doula. A person aiding the transition to The End.
She starts off her TED Talk by having you imagine your 800-something birthday. Say what? As attached as I am to this body, this ego, this person I think I am, I cannot imagine being Rita for another 700-something years!
Arthur insists that facing your impending death head on is crucial to fully experiencing the here and now. Unfortunately, our society is death averse. We don’t want to talk about it, as though it’s contagious. You will die sometime. It’s a fact.
For some reason, I found this tidbit of information so soothing: the body knows how to die. Hmmm. It did know when and how to be born, right? Although so much of life seems governed by thought, language, remembering that the body holds vasts swaths of nonverbal intelligence that it relies on every moment to keep the machine you’re in humming is reassuring.
Arthur also suggests always having your affairs in order. We’ve heard that one before, and it sounds dismal, but do you want family and friends not knowing your wishes and/or fighting over your stuff? Make it clear. Finances. Treasured belongings. Funeral arrangements.
Apparently thirst is an analgesic at the end, so if you’re ready to go? Die thirsty my friends!
If you’re up to it, you could do a meditation on all systems shutting down.
Arthur suggests fully fantasizing your deathbed scene. It sounds morbid, yes, and I’m uncertain of its potential likelihood because of the sudden way my late husband died. I mean, how much control do we have over how we go?
But picturing it isn’t such a bad idea. It’s all part of facing death head on, right? What are you seeing when you die – Arthur pictures a spectacular sunset. What are you smelling? For me, lavender instantly comes to mind. It’s a comforting, relaxing scent, yes? What are you wearing? What colour is your blanket? Do you hear music? Wind in the trees? Who is with you?
Consequently, I’m working on the most pleasing scene of my own personal death as possible, then I figure if I die in some horrific way? Hopefully I’ll have a moment to imagine it so my last thoughts are peaceful.
And so, out of the depths of despair this now aged youth may find himself in the glory of the present with the promise of the unknown beckoning.