Death is something most of us avoid talking about. We are told to live as if we could die. To tell our loved ones what our wishes are in case we are left unable to choose. We know eventually all those we love will die and yet we continue to open our hearts to the ticking clock of loss. I wondered what I would be bold enough tell death, if I invited him to join me for a chat over a cup of warm peppermint tea.
How will you come for me? Are your whispers mocking taunts that my time is short or gentle warnings to live each day to the fullest? I know I cannot turn down your invitation once it is sent, no matter how busy or unfinished my life seems.At first thought please come for me in my sleep. Take me in the hours where cats’ prowl and selfish babies wake their mothers demanding to be nursed to blissful slumber. Take me painlessly and quickly before my morning alarm sounds. Walk with me to the other side. Lie me gently down at the pearly gates so winged angels can escort me towards my final judgment. If angels never come release me to float forever in the deepest caverns of nothingness and nowhere. I have seen your work before when as a child you stole my father. In one day you upended my world from a place where fathers come home to a place where Almighty God could not be trusted. For mourning mouths whispered to me God needed him more than I. I witnessed your vicious handiwork when you crashed a semi-truck into my sister so full of beauty and youth. Were you surprised we kept her from your grasp while searching for a miracle to uncurl her limbs and heal her beautiful brain? She came to you in the end on her terms. You reached towards me once sending blood clots hurtling towards my lungs. I wept thinking of the grandchildren I may never hold. You released your grip and each day since has been a miracle.
Maybe another kind of death would suit me better, one that allows for preparation and goodbyes. A farewell that gives me time to make order of my worldly affairs. Say words I was too proud to say. A death that comes when my eyes are open, looking into faces of those I love. I would squeeze hands, kiss cheeks and feel the velvety fur of Annie’s ears one last time. Maybe if I am lucky I would hear what I have meant to others and listen to stoic reassurances they will be alright after I am gone. But I’m afraid even with weariness taking root in their beloved faces; I may be too selfish to leave for they are the gravity that holds me to this world.
Sometimes you demand heroic bravery. You take and take and take until negative space is full of your greed. You take until there are no more veins needles can reach. No more tumors medicine can shrink. No more diseases doctors can outsmart. You are horrid and heartless. You are not merciful or fair. You do not take just the aged you have lived lives filled to the brim. You take those with burgeoning dreams and those too young to know they have a right to dream. You do not take just the wicked whose death is just and righteous. You are fickle and bore easily. But now as I sit across from you; I am not afraid of what you have in store for me. For countless have traveled this road. They have traveled in their courage and in their despair. They left breadcrumbs along the way for me to follow and will lift me up when I am weak. I am blessed for although I have not done all I hope to do, I have done so much. I have read once upon a time stories to the most beautiful of children. I have sung with those who found harmony being together. I have been loved over and over and over again, even when I felt unlovable.
So death, although I know you will come for me. Can you blame me for asking you to take your time? (These pictures are of my father, Donald Gene Maynard, who died at the age of thirty five leaving behind my mother Sharon Renee who was pregnant with their eighth child and my sister Carolyn Jean Maynard who died nearly two years after a devastating brain injury that left her in a coma at the age of nineteen. The painting of my sister Carolyn was painted by my sister Michelle Marie Maynard as a gift to our mother.)