On death

I just learned that a neighbor died. Alone. In their home. I don’t know any details beyond that. In trying to process all this, I went in search of a quotation that might speak to me and help make sense of the situation. This, from Kurt Vonnegut, caught my eye: There is love enough in this world for everybody, if people will just look. That sentiment felt applicable because of how the neighbor had alienated others to the extent that no one could pinpoint for the police when the neighbor had last been seen. In my mind, the aloneness had been needlessly self-inflicted over the years, destroying relationships that had once thrived. Then I happened upon this quotation from Orson Welles: We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone. Who was I to pity the neighbor when every one of us will make that final trip alone? Our neighbor was fiercely independent and very proud of that fact.

I recently read Smoke Gets In Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory which was quite helpful, not only because it put death in perspective, but also for leading me to human composting. For years, I’d been telling Zippy that when I die I wanted him to toss my body in the forest so that the crows and whatever else could feast on my remains. He patiently and repeatedly pointed out how he’d probably get in serious trouble for disposing of his wife’s body in the woods. But now I have a plan that’s legal and suits my wishes. It’s incredibly freeing to know that when I die, my body will not only return to the soil but also enrich the earth. I hope my neighbor experienced a similar peace by having a death plan in place. I also hope their death was swift and painless, and that they maintained their sense of indomitability to the very end. When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home. ~ Tecumseh

This flower from my garden is a stand-in for the photos I took years ago of my neighbor’s iris. They were out of state that spring and sad to miss their garden in bloom, so I documented the display and sent it along. Remembering that connection eases some of today’s shock.

May 13, 2020

Death forces us to think more about life and how we’re spending our finite time here. Zippy and I are grateful to have our sons visiting now and we’ve shared even more hugs than usual today. If you’ve read this far, thank you for sharing in these musings with me. I’m grateful for our connection.

18 thoughts on “On death

  1. Hi Tracy, condolences for your neighbor and the tenderness of your post was enjoyable – and whew – death is such a heavy topic – even when so eloquently addressed like you did n this post.
    The image of of your neighbor’s iris was a nice tribute and nice that you showed them what they missed.
    It reminded me of when we lived in Denver in the 1990s – the homes were all built late 1950s and many of the residents were of that elderly age. There was a house three streets over and in the spring – tulips came up everywhere – they were planted along the walkway and all along the front of the house (in rows) – and made such a statement – but we found out later that the homeowner passed away before she could see them – her adult children helped her plant them the previous fall – she had always wanted to plant a bunch of tulips and they made that happen. Even tough she didn’t get to see them – her efforts sure stashed so much beauty into the world – and what a nice parting gift 🙂

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    • I so much appreciate you not only taking the time to read this post, but to offer such a beautiful story in return. What a wonderful gift the children gave their mother with those tulips, Even though she never saw them bloom, they helped make her dream come true. And those tulips bloom each spring, bringing others so much joy. ❤️

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      • oh – thanks for the smile – I am glad the tulip story came out well.
        My son was so little at the time and I used to pull him in a red wagon and I still remember the many days we soaked up the beauty

        and sigh – we had three funerals this month and then I also got an xmas and returned in the mail because the lady was deceased (a former boss and she passed away at 82)
        and so your post here fits right in with me theme of them month

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  2. Hi Tracy, Such a nice post about a difficult topic. Death and dying is something that I feel like many people struggle to talk about. But as you said, we will all have to face it someday.
    I will second your recommendation for Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. I read it and found it very helpful. Take care and enjoy having your sons up for a visit! Talk soon,

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  3. What I regret was that this neighbor’s “aloneness had been needlessly self-inflicted over the years”. Independence is fine; alienation is difficult for all concerned.
    Hug your sons.

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    • I agree with you, Amy, that independence and alienation are two very different things. I’m trying to hold onto the positive aspect in all this for the neighbor, believing they’d be proud of their independence to the end.

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    • It’s very strange and emotion-filled. We had snow yesterday and I went out in the afternoon to shovel and when I began shoveling the sidewalk in front of that neighbor’s home, as I have many times before, a wave of sadness slammed into me. Thank you for reading, Becky.

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  4. I’ve always been comfortable with the topic of death, it is after all a part of life or as the joke goes, “Nobody get’s out of this life alive.” Whatever pain or regrets your neighbor might have had, is gone now. They might have died alone, but they might not have felt alone.

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  5. I am so so sorry for your loss!😞 May you continue to find comfort. We do have a sure hope from the Bible to see our loved ones again here on earth! Acts 24:15 and John 5:28 in harmony with Psalms 37:29.

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