After nearly forty years of swimming around the periphery of my life, confining its activity to elderly grandparents or to people I knew only vaguely, death has made inroads in recent years. It is only natural, and it sucks. O death: I would hereby like to request a break.
The first portent came several years ago when a young and vital friend of mine — not a close friend, but a friend — woke up one morning, started the shower, and promptly fell over dead. He was a good eight or nine years younger than me, and in seemingly perfect health. He left a devastated partner and many mourning friends and relatives. We danced and sang him off inside and outside a church on Capitol Hill.
My stepfather died after living with cancer for two decades. These were graceful years too, full of determination and meditation, and also devoid of self pity and despair. When he married my mother he was already diagnosed, but they put together a solid decade and a half of time together before his liver finally gave way, leaving him yellow and weak. not long before death I sat on his bed with him watching Bayern Munich win the UEFA Champions League. He pumped his fist weakly when Robben netted the winner for Munich. Now his son is ill too, with the same cancer. Death marches on.
My aunt was the next to die — my dear, vital, zany aunt, who lived down the street from us and was a frequent and welcome visitor in our house. The cancer diagnosis came out of the blue, though perhaps not as a complete shock since she’d been a lifelong smoker. The surgery did not go well, and she died as a result, over a few terrible months. Our family, particularly my cousin and uncle, are still working through the despair. Some part of me still expects that it will be her, dog in tow, whenever a visitor knocks at the door.
Just recently another friend’s mother died. Suddenly, too young. We sat drinking wine and eating pie as she told us through tears how it had happened.
Enough already, death: I know you are a part of life, and I hope to greet you with serenity and grace whenever you decide to visit. But for now, I’d like to cordially invite you to go fuck off. Go somewhere else for a while, and spare our little tribe any more of your sermons. We get it. We know you’ll be back, but we need a break.