By Mark David Blum, Esq.
Today is my wedding anniversary. Let the celebrations begin. Tonight I have to say goodbye to a friend. No celebration for that. The total tonnage of overwhelming conflicting emotions – joy and grief – is backbreaking. A long day’s journey into the night this March 6th will be.
I am bitter. There is nothing sweet about today. Though I take joy in the life built with my mate, I cannot help but be distracted at the pain of a friend who lost a mate. A party in one city will be followed by sadness and a sea of tears. Me, I am lost. I am a man today facing both the celebration of life continuing and at the same time witnessing the end of life.
Does anybody wonder what death is like? I have no present interest in finding out. There is a lot of unfinished business on my plate for me to have any interest in hastening my interest in death. Life is wonderful. But what is death going to be like? Do you really feel pain? Are you really alone? Is it a comforting feeling as you reach that last moment? I wonder if you know that you are in fact about to die.
Yeah yeah yeah, “Mark’s gone off the deep end again.” No sorry, it aint like that. For this whole past week, I have been shoved face first into that question and all of its’ frills and spills. For me, as the whole story unfolded, I have been on a slow ride up and down a roller coaster with each downhill taking me deeper into the very depths of hell. A couple more dips, and I may get to look Satan in the eye.
I think that the real pain of death is not in the final moment but in the minutes, hours, days, and weeks before it comes. We all know, at least at a subconscious level that we are time limited on this planet. Death is a part of the process of life; you are birthed one day and then on another you are returned; ashes to ashes.
When it is sudden and comes cruel, there is no time available to anybody to prepare. The benefit we all enjoy about life and which I personally think protects us from going insane is that we do not know when our clock is going to run out. It could be today, tomorrow, or fifty years hence. A disease, a runaway bus, or a genetic defect could stop your clock way short of where you expected.
Give me a death sentence – fix a time on that mystery clock and say in so many hours or on such a date and time – I will die, and I have no doubt I would morph into a very different person within minutes. At that moment, such things as duty or responsibility or social mores all become irrelevant and moot. After all, if I wear white before Memorial day, what are they going to do? Shoot me? Why be loyal? Why be honorable? To take it a step further and yourself make the decision of the moment has to be even more harrowing. The act of bravery required to summarily stop the clock is unfathomable. Some call it cowardice. I question that.
Seems to me that those last moments when your fate is certain free you from having to be one of the herd. You can dance around, meals are a waste of time, no longer must you push toward the daily grind. There is no more reason to grind; unless you are dirty dancing. I wonder how loyal a person would be in their marriage or if they would even stay married. Would you? What about work – would you want to? Who needs to? But you cant just sit around. Time is short making every minute all the more precious. Do you spend it trying to gather up as much life experience as you can into the remaining moments or do you find an island with a warm beach and lay there naked in the sun peaceful in the arms of your love? I hope my friend’s last hours were spent in a loving embrace.
These are hard questions to answer for me because I am not dying and therefore cannot really relate. But I have been asked these questions as if I some wise old Solomon. Answers fail me. Thank goodness for the Socratic method enabling me to restate the question and bounce it back.
Truthfully, today I would rather be lawyering. People come to me when their whole world is crashing and burning. Rarely has it been life and death but then again long terms in prison can be worse than a death sentence. When I get paid, I don my Superman cape and fly off to fight for truth, justice, and the American way. My job gets done, the money deposited, and I walk away breaking my shoulder patting myself on the back for a job well done. Over more than twenty years, I have done this dance. You would think I would be used to it by now.
It is different when a friend dies. Those who know me know I would do everything; even suit up and fight the demons. I don’t get to remain objective. I may whip off my glasses, don my Superman cape, but in these situations I fly face first into a wall of Kryptonite. As against the world, I am bulletproof. When under these special circumstances, I just a human being. I feel pain. I feel helplessness. I hurt for my friends. It is so very frustrating.
Yeah I know. “Man up”, “grow a pair”, “quitcher bitchin; this aint about you”. Got it. Doin it. Makin it so.
Sometimes, I just need t to open up blank Word documents on my computer and talk to myself. I can blow no horn, sing no tune forlorn, nor draw a straight line with the aid of a compass and a ruler since the day I was born. No, it is the blank cavass of “Document 1” the opens up to me the infinite realm of possibilities of expression. Facing you the reader helps me face myself in the mirror. I imagine myself through your eyes and try to shake off the demons and right the ship of state. It so easy to get lost. I depend on you to endure my blatherings. I can leave my insanities here and go out the door with a full head of steam. The monsters in my head and the words of my muse have to go somewhere. Trust me, inside my head is not a good place to be.
Every one of us, especially as we age, gather up more and more baggage, jam many more skeletons in our closets, and grow thicker harder callouses. Life is hard but we learn to dance with our devils, bury them in our “history”, and try to stand up and keep moving forward. For the most part we succeed and adjust to social norms and conventions and life goes on. Never for a moment think though that the person you are standing there talking to or looking at doesn’t have their own “history” and pain and scars with which they do daily battle. Rich or poor, color and gender are irrelevant. Age is the distinguishing factor. You cant help but increase the volume of baggage as you travel more and more miles on life’s dusty trail.
So today is a day of joy and a day of tears. It will be a day of kindness and love and a day of heartache and pain. Which event will be which? That is the great mystery to yet unfold. With my head cleared, I can now face the day that awaits me.
I think the demon stirs from her slumber ….