The month of Samhain is now finally upon us. I can now open my window without care and embrace the cooling night. Outside, the winds pick up speed, the chill flits through the sky and stores all around are besieged already with holiday chachkes. The year is at its end. If it were to take on the form of a person, it would be a silver haired fox of a man, past middle age, in a snappy Ralph Luaren sweater vest. A older variation of George Clooney who makes a killer cappuccino.
It is also but no intentional coincidence that in this month of dancing skeletons and mass marketed macabre revels that my post is about one of our great truths- one we will all arrive to, like it or not. Death. The great equalizer. We all know someone who’s faced it. Who’s passed to the beyond, as it’s called. Danced the eternal dance. Who can now only be communicated with by way of a prayer- or Ouija board- depending on your chosen faith- or lack thereof. Why am I thinking of this? Well on today, my day off- it simply occurred to me. What would happen- if I were to suddenly- die? Now I don’t wish to go into the details such as the physiological and psychological effects that lead up to ones expiration.
Moreover, don’t I wish to bore you with the myriad theology behind a person’s passing. I can only speak for myself, as I’m the person I know best. So, say I die, by some means. Hopefully not violent. I assume after my body is taken, some stray friend would catch wind of my passing on that great modern carrier pigeon- social media. Friends would post images of me saying things to the effect of “I can’t believe this has happened!” or ” So long poet”etc. Images of me looking far more socially active than I ever really was would materialize like daffodils across the landscapes of friends social media feed, well-intentioned, though probably not particularly flattering.
People would message each back and forth, and assorted folks would hear of my passage to the great beyond- hopefully on their breaks at work- to work in a nice thought provoking recollection. If celebrity deaths have taught me anything, it’s that in death you apparently can only be one thing among the still living. This logic seems to count for just about anyone- and since poetry was my thing for a while, I can safety assume it would be my mortal capstone in spite of having lived 35 years of life.
Perhaps my name would be sparingly conjured or given utterence at the occasional spoken word salon or circle. I can hope that my three books would sell more fluidly then ever, because let’s face it, posthumous work sells. Ask Van Gogh. After a while, an entire life filled with hate, anguish, laughter, sex, adventure, travel, moments of all shades and types, passion and experiences, dances and art and poetry would be condensed to a few semi profound stanzas, a handful of pictures and an otherworldly shot in the arm I was want to have in my previous life. It goes without saying that my home would be gutted, all my possessions distributed among friends and loved ones, or sent off to the impersonal limbo of a thrift store shelf, where they would be slapped with a price tag as though they had never known me at all.
My place would be repainted. Floors re-varnished, shelves cleaned. Old neighbors that knew me would move away. At best, I would become known by way of a new generation through the words I wrote when I was still alive. The places I lived in and experienced would be converted to almost points of literary pilgrimage. The homes I dwelled in, my old apartment, the room I was a child in… “This is where that writer lived”. One hopes such a thing were to crystalize. Let us not forget the Day of the Dead! I can only presume my loved ones would create a shrine in my honor. Perhaps my celestial captors would let me see it for a night.
I’m sure it would be decked in all the things I both fancied and favored. Bottles of French wine, orchids and babie’s breaths. Polaroid images, iconic shots of places I once deemed remarkable. Stonehenge, St. Charles Bridge of Saints in Praha, the forests of Germany, the Tower of London, Death Valley Junction. Florence Italy. The East Village. There would be piles of books. Leather bound journals. Fairy tales, Czech mysteries, coloring books, my prized Goosebumps collection (the envy of all the kids in the neighborhood when I was 10) biographies, family photographs. Open mic promo stickers, modeling comp cards, programs for plays. Food too! Things I loved. Piles of fruit. Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, persimons, pomegranates, pink lady apples. Gingersnaps and those exquisite little windmill cookies. French bread, feta cheese, black beans, olives, Lavazzo coffee in white saucers. Kale salads and Persian cucumbers.
Bottles of olive oil, avacado oil and ground pepper and rock salt right from the Himalayas. Beeswax candles would set the tone as family would stand at heavy vigil. Friends would walk by and read poems I had written, passages from my books or work they had written themselves. Perhaps music even. Something particularly poignent such as “Revelation Blues” by Worlds The Tallest Man or “Saturn” by Sleeping at Last. (Fyi, if anyone I know is reading this and I HAVE died unexpectantly, play that latter song especially- it’s powerful! Just in case.) Eventually, true death begins. One by one, the people you knew in this life do a sad but perfectly natural thing- they move on. Eventually you are vaguely but hopefully fondly recalled, if only in a fleeting sentence or a photograph or a home video of some sort.
Those that knew you in life begin to age. And age. And age. Then, eventually, they have their own thoughts of mortality. You have become a family fairy tale, a scant shard of another time, recalled vaguely, yet not completely, as most who knew you have passed. Whispered among kin. Taken out on holidays, like a synthetic fir. Now, assuming you haven’t been cremated, it’s just you. In the soil. Flesh- gone. Co mingling with moss and advancing vegetation. That’s real death. When it’s as though you never existed at all. You’ve run your course. End of the line.
But it happens. Every day.
Now, granted this is just my personal musing. It may not be like this at all for me, or for you. We are all different. We will all be recalled and celebrated by those we have left in a different way. Some dont want to be remembered. Some want to be forgotten. Some have no romance about death. Some have all too much. Some want the world to weep when they pass, others a bit more modest, would be fine with a small gathering. The bottom line is this. Every second- is death. Every. Single. Second. How do we wrap our heads around this eventual truth? To most, it’s something to forget, bury, leave unattended. Others embrace the idea of transcendence.
Personally, I don’t fear death. Not for myself at least. For those I love- yes. Also, I fear the process of dying, but not death itself. If, or shall I say, when that day comes, there is nothing to behold, sad- but so be it. If however, there is — I look forward to it. But still, it makes you think, how will any of us be regarded when that day, which we are all inevitably racing towards, like it or not, comes to claim us?
Fearfully cowering in the cornering, unwilling and yearning to live?
Or ready with open arms, for an adventure that no body can say is for certian?
Something to think about, in this season of ghosts.