Sitting with sudden death once again. An old high school friend left this world the other day. Gone just so. Just so. Just so. My hands freeze on the keyboard. Tears blur my vision and i want to put away this computer and curl up on the couch and say fuck it to the day.
Death will arrive one day or night or afternoon or morning. Death will arrive. Will we be sleeping, or weeping, or swimming, or tending our animals, or praying, or running a bath, or laughing or walking down a beach?
Year after year the intention is there, ‘write your will’ I tell myself. If I keep putting it off will Theo and Maya know what to do with my body? Buried? Cremated? A few weeks ago, I thought about gathering friends for a day to design and sculpt and create our own personalized urns. Does that mean I want to be burned, my ashes saved, scattered, shared with friends and family? Or is it now more environmentally healthy to go directly into the earth. Flesh to soil. I think of my dear friend David who made his own coffin and painted it jubilant red. This simple bright red, wooden rectangular box became his altar for the next ten years until his passing at 90. We, his community got to be with him and that coffin turned altar during early morning meditations and then later sat with his body laid to rest in all that jubilant red.
Gone. Just so. Oken walking down the road with his brother early morning to catch a ride to work, gone ten minutes later by a barreling truck; Denis claimed by the sea on an Easter Monday; John Arthur a brain aneurism while in the barn doing morning chores; Paul and Nate surrendering to mental anguish. Gordon departing two days after falling (or pushed?) from a verandah; Mary transitioning through loss of breath in an asthma attack; Subira’s mother while being driven to the hospital, a simple cold, we thought. Jessica on a beach, a secluded path between shorelines killed by another. And countless other sudden losses whose names are on the breath of all who are reading this now.
This fear of sudden death feels ancient and old. My great grandmother Aqualina lost her baby on a boat from Calabria to Canada; My mother lost her five year old brother and best friend, Frankie to pneumonia in a day. Perhaps also being in such close proximity of the possibility of death with Dad and Maya in separate car crashes, both of them alive when they should or could have died had me frozen and tired and curled up on the couch for hours after hearing the sudden death of old high school friend, Art.
llness inevitable. Aging inevitable. Dying and death inevitable. Could there be a handmade urn waiting for us on bedroom ledges or hand painted coffins made into altars ready for death when death calls. Can we be somewhat prepared? Wills and poetry written, music for community farewells planned? Would this ease the terrifying notion that we may not wake up in the morning or we may fall to our knees while feeding the cows; or our bodies smashed by an oncoming truck. How does one make friends with the certainty of death? Death sitting on all our shoulders. I want not to take death for granted. i want to breathe in and welcome the certainty of her; write a will, spin a clay yurn, paint a jubilant red casket.
Dear Art thank you for your friendship during those vulnerable and not so easy days of Highschool. Thank you for your incessant kindness, your affectionate playfulness; your devotion to friends all around you. Thank you for the gift of you in a time when we needed and benefitted from YOU. Rest easy dear high school friend. We will join you when we join you.