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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Death Defies Me

I'm not quite sure exactly what it is about death that has me so intrigued lately but something out there has kind of been dogging my mind from time to time over recent months. I'm wondering if it has to do with the recent passing of my father in law. Or that my very own father passed away 15 years ago today (Series Part I, Part II, Part III). It could also be that my own mother is nearing 80 quite respectable years and, quite honestly, that makes me nervous. I'm not ready for that day at all.

You know I'm 47 years old now. Definitely middle age. That doesn't bother me much at all. But I do think about the cold fact that I probably have used up at or above 50% of my lifetime on this earth. And that's weird. I don't feel "that" old -- whatever "that" means. Time has passed so rapidly. And, I must say, I don't want to die. It kind of scares me -- the actual dying part and what may or may not come next. You know, dying when you're a gay man with no children or other younger family members close by to help out is a scary place to find one's self. I mean, there is nothing more depressing than a quiet journey down the hallway of a nursing home with very few visitors coming or going. I have my Partner and we'll always be by one another's sides -- but who knows which of us will go first. Seriously, who is going to take care of me...or us, for that matter? Who is going to come and pick me up for meal out or send birthday cards?

And then there is the very difficult-to-shake religious piece of the whole deal. What actually happens after my heart stops beating and I've breathed my very last breath? Do I see a bright light? Are there pearly gates to pass through? Is there a separation of sheep and goats as prophesied? Do I see or feel anything at all? Is there a heaven and hell? You know that spending much of my life on a church pew has given me more than enough concern about my final moments and the afterlife. Let's just suppose that the pastor was right and that gay people don't go to heaven -- which I don't personally believe, by the way. It's just that all those many years of listening to fear-based sermons seem to have some sort of lingering hold on me -- minimal as it may be. It's hard to shake. You know, it's perfectly acceptable to believe in something, or to not believe in something. But the fact remains that, if you're reading this post, you have yet to actually die and go through "whatever comes next." It's 100% unknown no matter what you believe. And my born-again Christian friends will now be saying to themselves that it's the Holy Spirit reminding me to be ready for death by "accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior." I've been down that church aisle before and already knelt at that alter. Many times. If it hasn't happened by now, it just ain't gonna.

We live next to a very large cemetery. We walk our dog (well, truth be told, HE walks the dog) along the side of the cemetery twice or more a day. Sometimes, I look in at the grave stones with a little angst -- I just don't relish the thought of my life coming to an end. I see the grave of a five-day-old little baby girl and a father with his young son buried together in the same plot. I look at the names and wonder what they were like. Who took care of them. And what they may have gone through after they died. I watch the hearses come and go and it crosses my mind regularly. I'm really not a morbid or dark person. It's just that my heart stirs a little about these big questions of life -- and death.

I just want it to all be okay. Easy. Not painful or scary. Without pain or belabored. And I don't ever want to discover that there is an afterlife that I wasn't prepared for (Que: Christians start putting me on prayer chains -- to be healed of my homosexuality and secondly for the saving of my soul). Or maybe it's quiet, and dark, and peaceful. And nothing happens. Who knows. But maybe by the time I reach the end, I'll have come to a place of contentment with my beliefs. A sense of resolve. Let's hope so. I think I probably will.


Ultra Dave said...

Thought provoking. I'm been down that road myself. Only you can answer those questions I think. You know what's in your heart just as any divinty does.

Anonymous said...

Humm! I'm 80, like your mother, and feel really close to my vase (cremation that is). I'm still asking the questions you have proposed. Great post!!!


Breenlantern said...

you are loved by so many, you will never be alone...you have family, friends and your chosen family to count on...and these questions haunt us all one way or anther. part of living is the wonder of it all...we could all be wrong or right...who knows? i hope you find peace with the answers you seek...

Ur-spo said...

That was a lovely thoughtful post.

Barring freak accidents we will all fall apart in the end, so the love of friends and family is what matters in the end. That, and having lived well.

I can not imagine someone like you with such a loving heart will ever be alone, now or later. May it be so.

Nathan said...

This is quite an insightful post.

I don't have any interesting comments to make, nor any answers, but I just wanted you to know I was thinking of you :)

CJ said...

Yeah as Jane Fonda has said, I know I am in my final trimester of life. My world and family changed dramatically when my mother died. Enjoy your time and this day Lewis.

Robert said...

Oh Arnie, and I love calling you that... heh... Funny I was listening to this one song just now and he sings: "There's a hole in the sky where the sun don't shine, and the clock on the wall and it counts my time..." :-)

Alec and I just asked the each other last week: "So if you're in a coma and there doesn't seem a chance that you'll ever recover. How many weeks should we give each other?" We both agreed on 4 weeks.

I think I'm more comfortable with death now, with me and with others. The saddest thing is leaving your loved one behind... I believe for the individual, there are many 'wonderful' things happen after death.

TGIF Arnie! :-) woohoo!

Anonymous said...

"...gay people don't go to heaven -- which I don't personally believe, by the way. It's just that all those many years of listening to fear-based sermons seem to have some sort of lingering hold on me -- minimal as it may be. It's hard to shake."
This couldn't speak more for me if I had written it myself. Perhaps that collective consciousness we hear about is not so far fetched?
I read part 3 of your father's story. Precious... I can't find words that don't sound corny... just glad to share the space with the sacred memories.

Mark in DE said...

I used to be fascinated by John Edward, the guy who communicates with those who have 'crossed over'. I bought/read his books and really was interested in such communication. John says the 'other side' is good and bright and happy for everyone, and that's enough for me. You may also want to read the book or rent the DVD "The Five People You Meet In Heaven".

Billy said...

Having just cared for my terminal hubby I can tell you that death is not an easy process, especially if you know it's coming.

The one thing that Dawie's passing has taught me is to live and live fully. Always. Every day!

WAT said...

Everyone thinks about this, but you, LIKE ME has the balls to write about it.

It's okay,we'll all die and meet each other on a gay cruise or massive orgy on the other side.

Just know that you have lived a pretty decent cool life and you should be proud of that.