Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Death Lesson: Doom and Gloom on a Bright Sunny Day?

Photo by Stephanie Fish. Ye Olde Burial Ground New London, CT
We’re all going to die. The only question is when. When your time is up, that’s when. It could be fifty years from now or fifty minutes from now. It’s going to happen to all of us and to everyone we love. Yet we like to pretend it will never happen. Seriously, I can’t imagine life without me. Can you imagine life without you? Is death the end of life? For that matter, is birth the beginning of life?
Until my father died over a decade ago (I was in my early 40s) I had no personal experience with death and loss as it happens in the real world, only in gothic fiction. These questions had never occurred to me much before then. Even though my father had been suffering from an incurable lung disease, I completely denied the reality that he would gradually worsen and finally succumb to it. My mother would race him to the ER when he’d be unable to catch his breath but he always rallied and returned home. 

Until the final time when he didn’t.

 Even during his final hospital stay when he was moved to intensive care, I still believed he would overcome this setback and live on until my mother called my sister and me and suggested we say goodbye to him for the last time. After saying our brave goodbyes (Dad hated displays of emotion unless it was laughter) I drove out of the hospital parking lot and pulled over to the side of the road to cry. A funny thing happened, although it wasn’t funny at the time. I finally accepted that my father was dying, I’d never see him again, yet the sun was so bright I needed sunglasses even though it was a chilly December day in New England! Where was the raging thunder storm that was always thrashing the landscape during times of tragedy and horror in the movies and gothic novels? Why weren’t big old trees being blown over, blocking the road as I struggled past the obstacles toward the safety of my home? Why wasn’t the water crashing up and over the sea walls dragging the soft silky sand out to sea? 

My father was dying

My life was facing a horrible tragedy that would devastate my world forever! How could that woman on the sidewalk just walk her little dog as though it were a normal day? Where was the death imagery and the dark symbolism? I removed my sunglasses to dry my eyes and confusedly drove home to make dinner for my family. Life keeps going on.

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