Death becomes me…

piroutte

I once was a person who read books based solely on their titles.  “Death Be Not Proud” was one that intrigued me at the tender age of 11, South Columbus Elementary School, the library, behind Mrs. Stevens’ (formerly Mrs. Fuller, but she decided to get married, which I never understood why that necessitated her name changing, she was the same lovely, gentle woman, even after the yucky man) black and antiqued gold rocking chair.  That’s where it sat – THE book. It was perched on the shelf, faced out, Robby Benson’s piercing blue eyes shrouded beneath his thick mane of raven hair.  I reached for the book because of the title, not because of the eye candy on its cover (at the age of 11, boys were just medieval torture devices).  I was intrigued by the words in the title, they piqued an interest in me that persists today – my own mortality.

“Death Be Not Proud.”   Stark.  Commanding.  The story of a young man living.  Most thought the story was about a dying young man, but in my young, simpler mind…this man was living.  We all die a little every day.  I knew this already, at 11, and I wasn’t a necessarily morbid or morose child, I was just a child who dealt in facts.  I cannot change facts so I have rarely raged against hard, uncontroverted facts.  Some might argue this is me at 52, romanticizing my youth, siting that I raised holy hell and all 9 gates thereto, when I was sent to bed at 8:00 in the evening during the hot and humid Saturday in the summer while the sun was still fairly high on the horizon so that I could rise at what seemed like dawn on Sundays for CCD class.  BUT…bedtime is NOT a fact, it is a situation.  My parents may have sent me to bed at 8:00 but I would not sleep until *gasp* at least 8:20!  But death…death is going to come to pass, regardless.  As Jim Morrison once said “No one here gets out alive” and that is another fact that will come to pass for us all, whether gnashing of the teeth occurs or not.

“Death Be Not Proud.” A statement.  Perhaps a guide to living.  Death is not to be proud or arrogant.  It cannot “come” for us.  It simply stands still at some preordained time in the future; one that we do not consciously know, and it waits as we interminably walk toward it.  We picked death before we were ever even born, if you subscribe to Platonic Philosophy, which I do, then the lives we have chosen all have the same outcome – death.  It is not in the dying that the moment of life should become precious…it is in the living, each and every precious moment of it, like a rare elixir, life should be tasted, savored and made sweeter by experiences that we consciously choose.

“Death Be Not Proud” because you will come to pass in time.  We will all experience death.  There is no avoiding death.  But living…LIVING is the experience that some will avoid from the time they are born and in that avoidance lies all the deepest shame of humanity – a squandered, precious life.

Death Be Not Proud.  I will not rage against you, but when my time is near, I will not run to you with arms wide open.  Instead, I will live every moment of my life eliminating negative influences, savoring experiences, huddling the masses of the positive family and friends I have cultivated, and I will dance…twirling, perhaps tap dancing, and maybe even a little pirouette…because Death, I AM proud to have lived my life fully and deliberately.

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3 comments

  1. Until my brother died I had not given death much thought with regard to it taking someone I cared about because until then it hadn’t happened. I lived in the naive here and now of youth and young adulthood which went well passed the age it probably should have.

    What I did think of often was my own demise but it didn’t feel it was in a dark way. As far back as I can remember there was a certain knowledge in my being that I would not grow old, whether by my own doing or an accident or murder I fully expected to not be around long enough to worry about lines, grays or sagging. That may seem morose I suppose but it was just something I knew. It didn’t weigh me down or cause me any great sorrow or depression. It is also one of the reasons I chose not to have children, thinking I’d not be around long enough to raise them. I didn’t go to college partly because I didn’t think I’d be around long enough to have a solid career.

    Sometimes while in the car I would imagine slowly merging into oncoming traffic on the highway when I saw a big rig truck coming the other direction and wonder if we hit if I would die from it. I would dream of being decapitated in my own bed, quite vividly and a short dream it was. Wake up with a start, sit up quickly and… dead. Someone in the room had strung a wire across over my throat so when I jumped up it cut my head off.

    When my brother died I felt a lot of survivor guilt. I wasn’t there, in fact I was on the other side of the country at the time but the fact that he died and it wasn’t me didn’t make sense. For 30 years I lived knowing it was coming for me, it wasn’t supposed to come for him. Now I wonder if it was his death I was anticipating all those years as he died rather closely to my imaginings.

    I am not prepared for the wrinkles, sagging skin and gray hair that has set in. In the last few years it hit that I may actually grow old and I need to start looking at my life and settling in a bit. What a revelation to have after 40.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Death is either a period or a comma; I’m not sure yet which. Life has some changing experiences in it that cause me to stop and say “before…” and “after…” and measure my life according to those before/after moments.

    Before my divorce…after my divorce…before Brandon died…after Brandon died…before I remarried…after I remarried…Once upon a time it wasn’t so fatal and negative. Once upon a time it was before I graduated…after I graduated…before recess…after recess…before trick or treat…after trick or treat…

    I wonder if, once we reach a “period” we can backspace and place a semi-colon and relate back but change the course to something less fatal, less serious, less grown up.

    I may have to try it just to see what possibilities I am avoiding with a period. Perhaps I will be one of the hipster trendy sort who tattoos a semicolon on my wrist as a reminder to live more simply. Nah. While I’ve covered the gray with dye, I still embrace the crows feet dancing at the edges of my eyes.

    I will pirouette…and probably sashay a bit too.

    Liked by 1 person

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