Night thoughts that sometimes intrude upon the day

As I lie awake in the wee hours, I think of death, not so much mine as Peggy’s. I don’t believe I could live without her. I don’t believe I would want to live without her. I think of my own death too. I’m 62, and we’ve lived in this house 21 years. Those years flew by. In another 21 years, I’ll be 83, which is statistically longer than I can expect to live. This means that death is practically at the door, and when I look at my life, I wonder what it was all about. What did I accomplish? Not much. What was I thinking? Not much. Why am I not trying to atone for those years while I still have time? Because I feel defeated by how little time I have left. Yet, there’s another part of me that thinks there will always be another tomorrow. After all, I don’t remember a day so dark that this wasn’t true. Try as I might, I can’t conceptualize non-existence.

I’ve lost many people to death. Some were old, and their deaths were expected. Others died tragically (I’ve always been attracted to tragic souls), and few people remember them. Yet, I carry them in my heart everyday. I thought all too little of our time together when they were alive. Then they died, and I realized how much they meant to me. Every moment I was with them now seems like a rare jewel. I try to take this awareness into my relationships with the living, but a reticency stops me. It’s easier to be intimate with the dead because the dead cannot reject me. The dead can be whatever I want them to be.

I’ve lost many dogs to death too, and I miss them even more than I miss the people. This is because dogs are like children—they’re dependent, ever present, and their lives are built around me. If I’m kind to them, they have a good life, but if I’m unkind, their life sucks. They die all too soon, and then I wish I had been even more kind. I never feel that I make the grade whether with humans or with dogs. I’m simply not good enough. I always want more than they can give, yet I can never give as much as I think I should. I want to work through these problems before I die. I want to feel that I did at least one relationship right.

As I was writing this, I learned that my friend, Carl Haga, died this morning. He and I and two other men played pool once a week for years, and only two of us are left. Now I have another jewel to carry within my heart.

28 comments:

Skepticat said...

I feel the same way to some degree. It's easy to love the dead because, as you say, they don't judge us. We project our own thoughts, feelings, and memories on them. They become small extensions of ourselves.

I always feel like I'm not doing enough for those who are still here who either love me or claim to love me. I do not have the energy or the will to invest too much of myself. I am too suspicious, I suppose, for my own good.

I wonder how many regrets I will take to my grave with me but then I realize that I will likely not be aware of regret on the other side. So I do not feel motivated to waste much time regretting or changing. I'd rather spend my time doing things that I find interesting or pacifying.

The Elephant's Child said...

Someone (can't remember who) told me that no-one is dead until they are forgotten. And on one level I agree. And on another I think what a load of crap. There are people and animals (so with you there) who I miss painfully. So very painfully. And expect that I will continue to do so until I die myself.

And I love your image of carrying the dead as jewels in your heart.

Stafford Ray said...

If it is any help, if you think you could have done better you probably could have but that thought is common to everyone who is not psychoticthat. But for neurotic you, it is probably about perception. Do you think you cared less for your dogs and departed friends than others do? I am trying to say to you that the fact you look back and wonder if you could have done better indicates you do care very much and are most likely doing OK. Ask Peggy!
That will be a hundred thanks; same time next week?

Sarah said...

I have these thoughts and I'm only 23, but that's because life DOES go by fast. And it's scary. I can't conceptualize non-existence either, so mostly I try not to think about it, because otherwise I get very sad. But death can't be ignored all the time. And I agree with Stafford here, that it's probably about perception, because it is very obvious that you do care and that life holds much value for you.

ellen abbott said...

all of us with caring hearts think the same things. I go over my past actions when I was young and know now how selfish or thoughtless I have been. or how stupid or unperceptive. it's called the human condition. be kind and compassionate, caring and gentle, put love out in the world and forgive yourself your short comings as you would forgive a friend.

The Tusk said...

'I’m simply not good enough. I always want more than they can give, yet I can never give as much as I think I should. I want to work through these problems before I die.'...

I don't believe this to be true from your animals you have kept. Your schnauzers gave you all the Love they had all the time they had. Sure, they probably misbehaved at times, but not in any intentional way to harm you or hurt you emotionally. They learned from your behaviors to emulate the energy you projected. You mastered the energy around them to be Calm and Assertive. This became their energy. Of the four stages that they went through in their relationship they practiced Fight, flight, avoidance, submission. The fight and flight left them relatively quickly, ocassionally they sought avoidance but most assuredly, to please you submission for a good rub or a soft lap to lay their head they found with you.

Human relationships are very similar and seek varying energies and our standards are based on building blocks that are different with each relationship we want to build. Self Reliance and self dependence forms requirements in relationships for different people that within todays taboos don't allow us to leave the accepted norms of today's society.

I can suggest for your pain of heart, and your pain of muscle and bone, different methods of coping.

I can suggest for the heart different things than I could suggest for the body. What of the soul and mind?

Go back to the woods whre you would love to be camping, concentrate on the wind with your boots on. Imagine it to be fleeing, even if its 60 miles overhead or blowing in your face. This is fight, The first calm it takes, before it begins to blow again, it flees you, while you are sitting remove one boot.

It begins to avoid you, your pain leaves you, imagine you have begun to control the wind and it has in your presence shown submission and has become your will.

If only momentarily the woods and nature are at one with you, your energy will be rejuvinated, your soul body and mind will be healthy and mature. You will have scorned the ageing process and you will have visited the ever sought after fountain of youth.

It's not the water of rain, its the air around you that keeps you youthful and free from pain.

Your lack of sleep...

The Tusk
from nightimes with my friend the wind

Linda said...

There will indeed be another tomorrow. That's life and yes, it does go awfully fast. I've had many friends die also and reading this post has made me think perhaps that is why I spend so much time alone now and have such few friends. I seldom think about death. I do however think about being ill and sometimes want to give up the good fight. But, I'll keep on walking.
I could have done better, but I didn't and that time is done.
Lately though, I keep wanting to do better and better. Perhaps it is that fear of death.
Keep on walking.

The Blog Fodder said...

I thought all too little of our time together when they were alive. Then they died, and I realized how much they meant to me. Every moment I was with them now seems like a rare jewel.

You put in words what I have felt many times. I too think about death more often now as my parents generation have died off one by one, leaving no one between me and the precipice. I do miss the friends and loved ones I have lost. And agree totally about dogs!

Thanks for this post.

Kay Dennison said...

I understand how you feel! However, since I have had, in my 64 years, last rites 3 times and I know that the next time will prolly be the last. One of my favorite songs from my misspent youth is "And When I Die" by Blood Sweat and Tears. It states my feelings about death.

http://youtu.be/smk_VS8OH-4

Lorraina said...

I feel very much like you do Snow. I'm a little older than you and have lost many people and many pets and have the same feelings you expressed over it.

I too have always felt inadequate and not good enough in any way. However when i really think about the past i realize i am not the same person now as i was then and therefore it's not fair to compare or to feel bad because that was wayyy before the history since.

Now i can't change and make any attempt to correct things or do differently as i don't even feel like i was that person of the past therefore not really feeling it.I think i did all i knew how and gave all i could give at that time and not my fault that it never was enough. My life seems like it was perhaps an old dream or a movie i saw many yrs ago and while i now remember some of it, not all of it, the actress in it was somebody else,just some unknown actress, certainly not me.

Now if i look back what often comes to mind are the injustices that were done to me, the people who made me miserable and a life that just sort of happened without my permission and i just went along with it not knowing how to change things. It's just the passage of time that makes them appear bigger now.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Snow, so very sorry for your loss.

I feel we all struggle with these feelings. There are no answers. Sometimes I think we all just do the best we can.

Robert the Skeptic said...

At 62 we have lived longer than most of the generation before us. I'd be dead twice over, age 46 had it not been for antibiotics; this year had it not been for open heart surgery.

I think about that as well... like where did the time go? But they were moments, living in the "now" it's sometimes called. We lived in the Now over and over and over again... as we are even in this very moment.

Yeah I look in the mirror and see an old guy looking back at me, my wife is not the cute skinny little blonde she once was, but I couldn't live with her either - I know EXACTLY what you mean when you talk about Peggy.

It sounds trite but living each day as if it were our last is all we've got. Don't worry about it my friend, it's coming for us both, it will be here when it gets here. For now, enjoy the moment.

Strayer said...

I rented this movie, Ikiru, made in the 50's, and the movie confronts just such issues. It's great. I loved it. I really liked the last scene, where he died, swinging in a park in the snow. Rent it! I recommend it.

Life is very precious and short, that's for sure. I try to remind myself of that everyday so I don't waste time in depression or regret or thoughts of vengance over wrongs. To think of personal non existence is very difficult. I hope when I die, it will be very very quick, nothing drawn out. Lots of really young people die, and that's sad, but really we are all only alive this very second without the past or future, only in the moment. That a body ages over time doesn't mean much. Days and nights passing, don't mean anything either in regards to age, just the spinning earth. This moment we are alive.

rhymeswithplague said...

We were away on a little trip to North Carolina and that is the reason I haven't been at the computer lately.

I enjoyed this post, Snow, except it frightens me to think that if Peggy goes before you, you might end it all. Please do no do that.

R. J. said...

I am reminded of the lyrics of the song called "My Way" sung by Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. I think everyone does the best they can with the circumstances at any given time. We make choices and sometimes make mistakes, but that is the way of the world. A past neighbor taught me that everything seems worse at 3 a.m. No one solves life's problems at that time of the night. If I can't sleep, I get up and read.

Robin said...

Dear Snow,
You are talking to a girl who became acquainted with Death's pain and loss at a young age. My Mum died 28 years ago, my Father, 18....and I am an only child. The one love of my life betrayed me 3 years ago - after a 17 year relationship (which is a death of sorts)..and my last doggie now lives with him...but he is getting older and the chance I may never see him again (the dog, not the man) seems a reality.

As we age, the idea of *Death* becomes clearer...most don't give it a thought in their teens ot twenties..(I only did because my Mum dies...quite young.) But as we age.....it does seem to hover over us all..like a storm cloud.

I don't know you all that well, my friend....I think we have been blogginf friends for just about a year....but one thing I DO KNOW..you are a kinder, gentler person than you think you are. You have been a GREAT *DAD* to your doggies...and cats...and a wonderful husband to Peggy...and..a dear, supportive friend to those of us who know you as *Snowbrush". To me, that seems like a life well lived... a full life, a rich life - with more than your share of pain.... but I feel you handle it all with honesty and dignity... (and a shot of Vodka)!
One couldn't ask for more.

I am really glad to have met you and to count you as friend.

Hugs to all, hey - how's Brewsky doing? He must be getting big!

♥ Robin ♥

Cloudia said...

you have spoken my own thoughts!
We will share this aweful knowledge.

Gratitude for those years that flew fills me.

I will use this for good, to remember to love everyone, especially my dear mate
and all
dogs.


Aloha from Honolulu :)

Comfort Spiral

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nollyposh said...

Oh Snow *You* are such a ~Beautiful~ Human Being and you don't even know it... Makes me luv ya even more! (((Hugs))) ...Here's a blog i came across today that in light of this post, might be helpful *wink*

Selina Kingston said...

"I’m simply not good enough."
I'm afraid I beg to differ. You are - you simply have to believe it.
(I actually know how hard that is to do but as someone who admires your writing, you should know that you are good enough)
I'm so sorry for your loss

Just_because_today said...

there is a saying in my language that translate to something like "there is ugly bride nor a mean dead". We tend to glorify the dead.

Death is one of the few things that doesn't discriminate. I should like that, but I don't. the things that don't discriminate like illness and death are things I wish they did.

I think about death, too, to some extent. When I make long term plans, I realize that in my case the odds are lower, but I always liked to go against odds.

Zuzana said...

Every time I visit you, it is never a disappointment. On the contrary, you convey eloquently that which many of us feel.
We have saying in my language, "Life is like a ladder to the hen house, covered with shit and short".
We all feel death showing its ugly face, as soon we we cross midlife. Death is inevitable and we will all experience it sooner or later.
To me it seems though that you will leave a lot behind. Your thoughts expressed here in cyberspace, they might touch a living soul or two. And I always take so much please in your undying love for Peggy.
Sorry about your friend...
Have a great weekend,
xoxo

Vagabonde said...

That is a deep post and the commentaries are very thoughtful – I enjoyed reading it all. I saw yesterday a report that we are born with an optimistic trait and that is good – we can all look for a tomorrow with hope. You are a very sensitive person, it shows in your posts. Death is what keeps us all equal.

Snowbrush said...

So many of you are so sweet. I'm really too touched... I've wanted to respond to various specific comments, but I got so behind that I'm not likely to catch up. Sometimes, I wonder if people are more interested in my comments to them about my posts on my blog, or in my comments to them about their posts on their blogs. It's quite hard to keep up with both without feeling that the Internet is taking over my life.

I've got some news about medical marijuana that I'll write about soon. For now, I'll just say that I got some, and that it appears as if it will be very helpful. I'm hoping it will assuage some of my mental distress, alleviate some of my physical pain, and maybe even give me some insights about other steps I might take to heal. However, it's impossible to really know what to expect. Pot is a very different kind of a drug from narcotics or alcohol (which feel similarly despite their differences), and today's pot is way, way stronger than what I used to smoke, so I really don't know how I will do with it day in and day out.

rhymeswithplague said...

My fear is that you will become so mellowed out that you won't come near your computer again, and that would be a very great loss indeed.

KleinsteMotte said...

Thanks for dropping by my photo blog. I read some of your and am puzzled by you medical struggles. Too much pain!! I found that many of my woes were tied to allergies. When I eat eggs several days in a row my left leg starts to hurt. When I eat cold cuts regularly my head throbs. When hubby eats salmon he gets a severe upper backache. Our body sure uses strange ways to send us messages that it doesn't like us eating stuff! Perhaps that can give you some new hope . Diet change?? I'm 65 this July. Hubby is 71. You can read more on my other blog if you wish. I also understand that staring death in the face makes these years tougher than I imagined. The years flew by quickly. Our cat is adding some new life to the daily routines.

dana said...

There's a saying: "How do you make a bastard into a saint? Kill him." While that can be taken two ways, it is always present at a funeral. The person who was a bastard in life is suddenly spoken of after death as if he had been a saint.

Our memories are made of everything necessary to torture us. It is hard to remember the bad times when remembering the good times hurts so much more, and we lean toward that goal.

No human can take the place of an animal in one way: animals never once hurt us, take us for granted or mistreat us. That leaves everything out of balance when you look at it from the animal's viewpoint.

Wow. I must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed today....at least I woke up.

Natalie said...

I am so happy to see you have some respite from your physical pain. :)

Happy 60th Birthday to Peggy!

I am not sorry you have lost your buddy though.

Some people touch us profoundly and they may never even be aware of it. I think you would be surprised at just how loved you are.

Red Shoes said...

My Dad was 90 when he died...

One of the last things he told me was how quickly those 90 years zoomed by...

I seem more preoccupied with Death than I used to be...

There is always tomorrow...

Always...

~shoes~