Wednesday, June 11, 2008

To Die: to Sleep; No More!

The end-times are so much on my mind!
by Charlie Leck

"Dying is fine, but Death, oh baby, I wouldn't like Death if Death were good!"
[e.e. cummings]


My sister, Jean of blessed memory, who died recently, was much more a mother to me than sibling. That's how I thought of her. It must be natural that the death of a sibling, especially such a close one, causes one to think much more of the approaching end of life and to 'work out' philosophically where one is at with these final moments; for I indeed find myself thinking of these things more than occasionally. I have begun to prepare my papers and possessions and I am writing out my wishes. Is this too mawkish? If you think it is, you are young reader.

Tonight I saw off a cousin, dear, beautiful Mary Ann, who came to visit us here in Minnesota for a couple of days, and I realized, as I kissed her goodbye, that she was much more a sister to me than a cousin.

Who have I ever loved more? Only my children, my step-children and my wife. Otherwise, I have loved this cousin as family – as a part of me – as I would love a dear, close, wonderful, favorite sister.

Tonight I took her and her husband to the airport, so they could catch a plane to L.A. to spend time with a son. She is a loyal Parisian now, having lived there for 45 years. I held her and kissed her and thought to myself that this might be the very last time that I would ever see her.

She is such a devout Christian. She left a message for me, in our guestbook, that she would pray for us each and every day. That's sweet. She thinks we'll be reunited in heaven. I don't have that faith. I see death as a wonderful period of eternal, beautiful rest. These moments of life, on earth, are much more important to me – when I can feel the softness of her skin and smell the aliveness of her body and listen to her astonishing laughter.

Edna St. Vincent Mallay said of death: "I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned."

I took no consolation tonight, when I held my cousin and said goodbye, that we would meet again in heaven. I had the heavy feeling that this was the last time I would hold her; for the years had slid by so quickly and they slide by now with ever increasing speed.

As I drove away from the airport, I bawled like a baby.

"I'm okay," I assured my wife, "I'm just frightened that I'll never see her again."

"Why do you feel like that?"

I was amazed at the simplicity of the question. Didn't she understand?

"Because, I'm so f…….ing' old," I shouted painfully.

Too many of my friends are dying around me. Too quickly do people fade away. A sister is gone!

My lovely cousin lives in Paris. I live nearly 6,000 miles away. Yet, it is more than miles that separate us. We are separated by the rapidly rising and falling tides of life. We are caught in them and cannot escape them.

She believes, so firmly, that we will be reunited in heaven. I believe that I will close my eyes and rest so peacefully – so extraordinarily peacefully – for all eternity.

Dear, sweet Mary Ann, I have never loved so sweetly – so innocently – as I love you. I am your big brother and I want to reach out and take every little, insignificant pain away. Where there is any sadness in your life, I want to take it away. I want to be with you often and I want to hear your lovely voice singing little bird songs in my ear.

When I finally lie down and go to sleep, eternally, remember that you, with my children and my wife, were on my mind and in my eye – and I brought back to memory those moments when we were such tiny ones and we loved each other so perfectly.

To use e.e. cummings, "i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart)."

I should like to write a book about you or poems like that about you – about the fierce love we had for each other, but I know that I couldn't explain your complex mind nor the depth of faith you have.

St. Paul told us that love is stronger than death. I'm not sure; for, you see, unlike you I do not believe the gospels are a perfect expression of truth, but only another attempt to grapple with questions! Death is certainly not to be feared because it is so positively and perfectly peaceful – a poor trade-off, I guess, for the wonder of being loved.

To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd.
[Shakespeare: Hamlet]

1 comment:

  1. You don't know me, but I knew Mary Ann Svejda years ago. I was thinking about her recently and wrote about her in my blog . I then wondered if there is anything anywhere on the net about Mary Ann, so I googled her name and got your blogpost.

    I married a German and moved to Hamburg many years ago. On a vacation, I had hoped we could stop in and see Mary Ann at her home in the Ticino. I wrote to her at that time, but it did work out.

    I am divorced now, living in Montreal, retired from a long career as a chemistry prof.

    I would so like to contact Mary Ann -- not that I plan to drop in on her -- I just always found a connection to her to be something valuable. She had a profound effect on all who knew her. You obviously feel the same way, at a deeper level. Would you consider sending me her address? My full name is Barbara DeLorenzi and you can check me out on the internet, if you wish.